Immediate revision of coal royalty and a special economic package for speedy development of the region were among the major demands raised at the 24th Eastern Zonal Council meet with Union Home minister Amit Shah.
Amit Shah later stated that 40 issues were resolved with mutual coordination during deliberations on Friday.
The meeting, Chaired by Shah and attended by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his West Bengal and Bihar counterparts – Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar -respectively, was skipped by Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren.
Amit Shah said as per the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, eastern region needs more focus to fast track its development and hoped this meeting would be decisive and fruitful in resolving the issues listed on the agenda.
Amit Shah said besides the issues listed on the agenda, he would also like to add and discuss issues relating to law and order and administrative reforms so that this Council meeting is helpful in giving further pace to development, an official release said.
After the end of the meet, Amit Shah, Banerjee and Kumar had a meal together at the lunch hosted by Patnaik at his residence.
Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan joined them.
While there was no official word on what was talked about during the meal, the picture of Shah and Mamata sharing a lunch led to talks in the political circles about a possible scale down in their attacks on each other.
Expressing satisfaction at usefulness of Zonal Council mechanism, the Home minister said more than 70 per cent issues have been resolved based on the recent meetings of the Zonal Councils and remaining issues are also under resolution.
“Out of the 48 items discussed today, 40 were resolved in the meeting with mutual coordination,’ Shah said. However, it was not clear as to which eight issues remained unresolved.
Among the issues discussed at the EZC meet were related to Phulbari Dam under the agreement of 1978 signed by the states of Bihar and West Bengal on Upper Mahananda Water Scheme, Extension of Nuapada-Gunupur-Therubali Rail Link Project in Odisha.
Use of state government land by Coal companies of GOI, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)-land transfer by CPSU, Prevention of cattle smuggling/illegal transportation of cattle to Indo-Bangladesh Border, lack of telecom and bank connectivity in Odisha, revision of royalty on coal and inadequate funding and delayed land related issues of petroleum projects also figured at the meet.
Patnaik, who is the vice-chairman of the council and host, batted for the entire east zone and demanded special economic package for the region, saying the states lag in many sectors despite being endowed with natural and mineral resources.
He also urged Odisha be declared a “Special Focus State” in view of frequent natural disasters faced by the state and its vulnerability to natural calamity.
All the participant states demanded that coal royalty, which has not been revised since 2012, be hiked forthwith. All the four eastern states – Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand are coal bearing areas.
Lamenting delay in revision in coal royalty, Patnaik said there is an urgent need to revise royalty on coal and also to share proceeds of clean energy cess with the state government.
He said the entire eastern region lags in teledensity, railway density and banking density and, therefore, needs to be given a special economic package for speeding up Infrastructural Development of the zone.
Emphasising that this zone contributes maximum to the mineral wealth of the country and in turn manufacturing and energy security, he said the fruits of this wealth should boost economic growth of this region and its people.
“Our Regions have some of the largest scheduled areas of the country. I reiterate my demand for inclusion of Ho, Bhumij and Mundari languages in the Eighth Schedule of Constitution, the Chief Minister said.
Mamata Banerjee told reporters she highlighted West Bengal issues at the EZC meet where she expressed concern that her state did not get required assistance during natural calamities like cyclone Fani and Bulbul.
She also said Bengal has been neglected in many matter and the state should get its due share in the central pool. “We have not got Rs 50,000 crore from the Centre,” she added.
Banerjee said she also raised issues related to her state like delay in GST compensation payment, anf lower share in the devolution.
Nitish Kumar reiterated the demand for grant of special category status to Bihar.
Nitish Kumar also urged West Bengal and Jharkhand, sharing border with Bihar, to initiate strong measures to stop smuggling of liquor into the state, where prohibition is in force since 2016.
During the meeting, Amit Shah also exhorted various central government departments to expedite decisions that are pending with the Union ministries. He also laid stress on expanding banking services to ensure that the benefits are available even in the remotest areas, according to official sources.
While concluding, he mentioned the long pending issues need to be resolved by regular discussions and not only during the Zonal Council meetings. He also requested the States to ensure sharing of data on regular basis.