May 29, 2014

Cuttack, June 26, 2013: I have had a long and intimate association with Cuttack.I had wanted to interact with the Cuttack Media.But, somehow it had not worked out.Some media friends had been requesting me to come here and discuss with you.I am happy that it has been finally possible today to meet all of you.

I feel the BJD Government has been continuously neglecting Cuttack.While coming here today I came through Jobra.Large pipes are being laid to supply water to an oil company.When I first became a Minister I had dreamt of making the river side as beautiful as the Mumbai marine drive.But, at that point there was not enough money with state Governments anywhere in the country.The central flow of funds was also limited.If you may recollect there was a devastating flood in Odisha in 1982.At that point I was the irrigation minister.I managed to get money from the central Government and build the ring dam for flood protection of the city.The ring dam also created a beautiful river side and we got nearly 2000 Acres of additional land, where Abhinab Bidanashi or CDA Area has come up.You can imagine what would be the condition of Cuttack without CDA and the ring dam?

From time to time people of Cuttack and visitors to the city have enjoyed the natural beauty of the river bank.If you have read John Beams, who was Collector Cuttack around 1880s, you will see how he relished Cuttack’s natural beauty, Mahanadi and Kathajodi on both sides of the city and the Athgarh hills at a distance.When I came today, I was aghast to see the grotesque structure that is coming up by the river side.In no civilised country any Government would allow such destruction of natural beauty.

So, I ask two questions to the Government:

  • Was it absolutely necessary to supply water to an oil company from Naraj? Was there totally no alternative?
  • Do not people of Cuttack have a right over natural beauty that no Government is permitted to take away? If a pipeline is absolutely to be laid, could not it have been underground so that the river view and the silhouette are not destroyed? Mr.Naveen Patnaik is supposed to be a Londoner.He has visited many countries.  Does he know of any country where a Government would let the river view be changed by a grotesque and monstrous pipeline?

We are being told that the Hon’ble High Court has permitted the Pipelines.The High Court has neither given permission nor entered into any agreement with any Oil Company; the state Government has.The High Court has only accepted the decision of the state Governments adding a few conditions like dredging sand from a 6.5 km stretch of river from Naraj to Jobra and construction of the dam.I do not know whether these conditions are being adhered to.But, the point is if the state Government had asked the Company to build a reservoir downstream, would the High Court have said no.

A second issue is the ongoing demolition of temples and monasteries in Cuttack.The litigation was going on in the High Court for the last three years.What was the state Government doing during that period? Could they not have discussed these people with the people of Cuttack and found a solution.It was deeply saddening when finally because of incompetence of the state Government they were forced to use heavy machines like bulldozers to demolish religious structures without even being able to go to the Supreme Court.In Rourkela, there is a Hanuman Batika, where all the temples are located in a patch of land.If it was possible in Rourkela, could it not have been possible in Cuttack.Many temples could have been relocated.I am not in favour of encroachment of Government land.Nor am I criticising the state Government.My point is keeping in mind the religious beliefs and rights of citizens the Government should make available   necessary land for temples, mosques and churches.Providing land for community activities is a responsibility of the Government.What has been the role of the Government in all these?

A third issue is the expectation of the state Government that once JAICA project is implemented, people of Cuttack will forget and forgive the manner in the which the city is being neglected during the last 10 years.I thank the Orissa High Court.We have a peculiar situation where town bus under JNURM comes to Cuttack is introduced only under the High Court direction, and steps are taken to deal with mosquito menace under court direction.Why should the High Court intervene to set right the neglect of Cuttack each time?

Look at the JAICA project.The project was sanctioned in 2008, but the foundation stone was laid on 1st October 2012.Work on the project has still not started.How can it be completed and all the drains made under ground by 2014? Out of the initial estimate of Rs.754.44 crore, JAICA is to provide Rs.624.65 crore as soft loan to the State Government.The first ten years the state Government will get the benefit of a moratorium and no interest will be charged.The loan will be repaid in 40 years and the interest rate will be 0.75 per cent, the lowest possible.So, money is being provided by JAICA, but because of incompetence and neglect of the state Government the project has made no headway.Who is responsible? In every issue the BJD is shouting about central neglect.But, why have they failed in spending the money provided by JAICA.Now the project cost has increased to Rs.1500 crore.Where will the additional money come? Who is responsible for all these? Will the state Government get money from JAICA without the Central Government wanting it? The City Congress has been raising these issues, but the state Government continues to be highly apathetic to the problems of the city.

The BJD is always talking about central neglect.But, what have they really done for Cuttack? When we were in power we built the ring dam and the Abhinab Bidanashi or CDA.One of the major problems in Cuttack is the lack of job opportunities and the scope for businesses to grow.We had started the Jagatpur and Khapuria industrial estates.What has BJD Government done for creating jobs in Cuttack? They have provided prime land in the bank of Kathjodi to Ravi Shankar University at throw away prices.What is the progress of the project? How many people for Cuttack will get jobs there? How will Cuttack benefit from this project? In a city constrained with land, why did not they think of creating a new township instead of allowing a private university to grab land?

You are all aware of the chit fund scam.After my letter to the Chief Minister on 8 May, the state administration woke up from deep slumber and appeared to be taking action against the fraudsters.All these have been going on for almost ten years under the nose of the Government and nothing was done to protect small depositors.Now also the state Government is trying systematically to protect BJD Ministers and MLAs involved in the scam.I have been demanding an SIT probe under a High Court Judge.The State Government knowing full well that the High Court cannot spare a sitting Judge for a judicial enquiry as per Supreme Court order, wrote a letter to the High Court and now the High Court has refused.The scam needs to be investigated by an independent agency.

Cuttack is one of the most enlightened cities of the state.I am sure that people of Cuttack will not tolerate the neglect of the city, the deliberate delay in implementation of the JAICA project and give a befitting repost to BJD in the upcoming municipal and general elections.

(The writer is a former Minister and former president of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee)

May 29, 2014 0 Comment