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Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 15, 2013
After providing massive logistical support for the rescue operations in Phailin-hit areas, the Centre is bracing itself for demands for heavy financial assistance from Odisha. The demand would supersede the state’s long-standing demand for a special category status.

Sources in the BJD, the ruling party in Odisha, told HT that chief minister Naveen Patnaik will soon seek central assistance mainly to cover four sectors: failed crops, damaged houses and roads and rebuilding power infrastructure.

Last year, the Centre cleared a Rs. 900 crore-package for Odisha from the National Disaster Relief Fund as against Rs. 3,265.38 crore as demanded by the state after it suffered two floods.

“We immediately need central assistance of at least Rs. 1,000 crore to rebuild the power distribution infrastructure. It requires huge capital investments and the centre has to provide us all possible help,” BJD chief whip in Lok Sabha, Bhartruhari Mahtab told HT from Cuttack.

Odisha’s special relief commissioner, Pradipta Mahapatra has billed the crop loss due to the cyclone to Rs. 2,400 crore, adding that out of the total cultivable area of 3.6 million hectares, 0.5 million has been affected. The state’s rice-producing areas have taken the maximum hit from Phailin.

Last month, a panel headed by RBI governor Raghuram Rajan ranked Odisha as the most backward state based on a new index of development. Rajan’s report is key to determine the extent of central’s special assistance.

“The cyclone and the flood are going to further weaken Odisha’s position in terms of development. The need for central assistance is even more now,” said an Odisha government official.