Odisha Sets Pre-Condition, Agrees To Attend Niti Aayog Programme

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Bhubaneswar: Odisha government today said it may participate in the Centre’s ‘Aspirational’ District Programme if the Niti Aayog, which is implementing it, agrees to the state’s conditions and allows changes.

Niti Aayog is implementing the programme to scale up development in 115 districts of the country. Odisha government had initially rejected the programme.

“If the Niti Aayog agrees to our conditions and allows change in the chosen districts, we have no reasons to reject the programme,” Odisha Finance Minister S B Behera told reporters here.

The chief secretary A P Padhi in his letter to the NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer, Amitabh Kant said, “If the views of the state government on the issue of selection of districts, selection of Prabhari Officers and monitoring mechanism for district visit are accepted by NITI Aayog and Government of India, then it may be possible to jointly work in this area”.

Padhi said he has written stating that the chief minister has given green signal to join the programme in which nine districts are needed to be included along with separate funds for these districts. Earlier eight districts from Odisha had been identified and listed as “backward” by the NITI Aayog.

Those districts were Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Gajapati, Malkangiri, Koraput, Balangir and Dhenkanal.

However, the Odisha government wants that Nabarangpur and Nuapada be included in the in the “backward” district list and Dhenkanal be deleted from it. Odisha is among three states which raised objection to the manner in which the Centre chose the districts and engaged officers without consulting it.

The other two are West Bengal and Kerala. The state government in its conditions has also demanded allocation of more funds for the most backward districts.

The Odisha government changed its stand on the programme after the recent visit of NITI Aayog Vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar to the state and his meeting with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The Odisha government has also provided a fresh panel for appointment of ‘prabhari officers’, while rejecting the earlier list prepared by the NITI Aayog. Padhi has said after the fresh appointment of these officers they will work jointly with the secretaries nominated by the state government for each identified districts.

The state government has also said as of now the Aspirational District Programme has not been backed by any financial commitment for uplift of the districts.

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