By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, January 7, 2018: Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Sunday called upon Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to review the state government’s decision of not becoming part of the Centre’s backward district development initiative.

“I request Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to review the decision. The Centre has not forced any decision on the state. The state has all rights to bring in changes in the proposal. Besides, the whole process will be carried out under the Chief Secretary,” Pradhan told reporters two days after the Odisha government boycotted a meeting of Niti Aayog addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Odisha and West Bengal did not send district collectors to the meeting, Pradhan said clarifying that the Niti Aayog’s proposal should not be seen as an interference of the Centre into the business of the state. Niti Aayog had approached chief secretary A P Padhi several times to cooperate with the initiative so that eight districts of the state would get special attention.

“Odisha chief secretary is an intelligent person. I do not know who pressurized him to write that Odisha was not taken into confidence while appointing the Prabhari officers by the Centre,” the minister said. Opposing the Centre’s action of appointing IAS officers as Prabhari (in-charge) officers in eight most backward districts of Odisha – Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Koraput, Dhenkanal and Bolangir – to address specific developmental needs, the state government had decided to give the event a miss, he said.

Pradhan once again urged Patnaik to reconsider the state’s decision in regard to the backward area development saying, “The chief minister should prove that he is the best administrator through actions and not just words.”

Meanwhile, ruling BJD spokesperson P K Deb said the state government has already appointed senior IAS officers for monitoring the developmental works in all the districts and there was no need to appoint more officers for the same job. The objective of the Centre’s initiative is to transform 115 backward districts across the country of which 35 are affected by Left Wing violence.