By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, January 9, 2019: Even as the visiting 15th Finance Commission extolled Odisha’s latest farm package scheme titled KALIA as the best-conceived scheme for the distressed agriculture sector, chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday suggested the 15th Finance Commission for increase in tax devolution from 42 per cent to 50 per cent and making cess and surcharges as part of divisible pool.

During a meeting with 15th Finance Commission chairman N K Singh and members of the commission here, Patnaik suggested the 1971 population should be used as devolution criteria.

Some other major suggestions he presented before the Commission include- extension of GST compensation for another 10 years, utilization of the Clean Energy Cess in coal mining areas.

The CM also requested to provide a package for disaster management of Rs 1,500 crore to build more cyclone shelters and improve the warning systems.

Mr Patnaik, while raising the issue of the state’s demand of special category status for Odisha, alleged that the Centre was being negligent towards the state in various sectors.

“Odisha faces natural calamities every alternate year. It is in this premise of historic Central neglect and frequent natural calamities that my government has been demanding Special category status for Odisha which will supplement our efforts in transforming the State,” he said.

While interacting with the media, the FC chairman said the proposal for increase in devolution of taxes was the main item in the recommendations and details on it could be chalked out in next one month after examining submissions of the Union government and other stake holders.

The Commission lauded Odisha’s consistently high growth trajectory but the state has faced significant volatility which could be due to natural disasters. Odisha is the 16th state the Commission has visited.

The panel expressed dismay that the state despite being home to more than 72 per cent of the mineral resources has a rather modest contribution from the manufacturing sector.

The panel, however, felt KALIA or Krushak Assistance for Livelihoods & Income Augmentation bettered the typecast farm loan waiver announcements as it catered to all categories of the farm community.

“The KALIA scheme in many ways is the best-conceived scheme. It has won all round commendation. The focus now has to be on the scheme implementation. Both identification of the beneficiaries and implementation has to be done in a manner which matches the parameters of credibility and transparency”, Singh told reporters here.

On alleviating poverty and raising per capita income, the Commission acknowledged the strides made by the Odisha government with riders. “Poverty still continues to be significantly higher than the all India average. Per capita income of Odisha, too, has a lot of catching up to do”, said Singh.

The panel tore into Odisha’s creaking health infrastructure, stressing on the need for greater availability of doctors, ramping up the number of functioning medical institutions and making primary health care centres more accountable. Odisha’s strength, the Commission, noted lay in its political stability and enlightened political leadership.

Asked on Odisha’s demand for special category status, Singh replied, “It does not fall within the purview or Terms of Reference of the Commission. Regarding Odisha’s special package, they have demanded 90:10 ratio for centrally sponsored schemes. The issue of vertical devolution is an ongoing exercise and we have not made up our mind. The Commission is still awaiting the detailed submissions of the central government”.

The state government also has demanded extension of GST compensation for another 10 years and clean energy cess to be spent in coal mining areas.Besides, the state government has demanded at least Rs 1500 crore package for disaster management to build more cyclone shelters and improve our warning systems.

Odisha has submitted a consolidated demand to the Commission, amounting to Rs 8.24 trillion, comprising components like pre-devolution revenue deficit (Rs 6.71 trillion), state-specific need (Rs 87,520 crore), disaster response (Rs 11,875 crore) and grants to local bodies (Rs 53,884 crore).

On chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s recent demand for fiscal autonomy, Singh said, “Fiscal autonomy is guaranteed in the Constitution. Fiscal autonomy can lead to multiple interpretations. The central government should not dabble in subjects which are under the purview of states.”

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