Accepting most of the demands made by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the benefit of the people in cyclone-hit areas, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has said the Centre will extend similar flexibility under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as given to calamity-ravaged Uttarakhand in July this year.

“I am more than pleased to extend the same flexibility that we have given to Uttarakhand in July 2013 to Odisha, which has gone through a severe calamity in the past few weeks,” Mr. Ramesh said in a letter addressed to Mr. Patnaik on Wednesday evening.

Mr. Ramesh’s assurance came in a reply a few hours after Mr. Patnaik sent two letters to the Union Minister seeking several assistance, including three lakh houses under Indira Awas Yojana, for the Phailin affected districts and an additional Rs.500 crore as labour budget under MGNREGA for 2013-14.

The Union Minister said that two specific requests made by Mr. Patnaik for use of machinery under MGNREGA and a special grant of Rs.35 crore for repair of IT infrastructure were being considered. “I will revert to you shortly,” said Mr. Ramesh.

On the demand for raising the labour budget over and above Rs.1,515.7 crore already approved for 2013-14, Mr. Ramesh said he had been personally requesting the State government officials to come for a review of the labour budget.

Labour budget

Stating that barring Jharkhand, no other State, including Odisha, had come forward for a review of the labour budget in spite of his open offer, the Union Minister said, “I wish to state once again that the State government can come any time for a review of the labour budget and what is considered reasonable will be agreed to.”

“We can consider flexibility in pre-conditions for fund release, but the important thing is for the State to come for a review of the labour budget,” The Union Minister said.

In fact, it was Mr. Ramesh who had on his own written a letter to Mr. Patnaik just two days after Phailin hit Odisha stating that the Centre would extend the same flexibility that had been given to Uttarakhand to Odisha to implement MGNREGA more effectively to provide employment in the areas that had been affected by Phailin.