Orissa has achieved a ‘rare distinction’ of bringing down its loan burden for the first time since Independence, its finance minister P C Ghadai told the assembly.

The state’s total debt has now reduced from Rs 36430 crore in previous fiscal to Rs 35493 crore now, Mr. Ghadai told the assembly on Friday night.

“We have made a history of sorts by bringing down loan burden by Rs 937 crore in 2008-09. The loan burden was reduced after a long gap of 61 years,” he said replying to the debate on Orissa Appropriation (no 2) Bill-2009.

“After Independence this is for the first time that the loan amount has fallen,” he said amidst laud applause from the treasury bench.

In 1946-47 the debt burden fell from Rs 74 lakh to Rs 73 lakh.

Mr. Ghadai’s reply followed allegation by the Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh that the per capita debt burden had touched about Rs 10,000.

The minister said that despite several difficulties, the state had not made any open market borrowing for the last four years.

Besides Delhi and Haryana, Orissa has been identified by the Finance Commission among the three best performing states in terms of fiscal management, he added.

On the BJD government’s efforts to develop Orissa, Mr. Ghadai said the state’s plan size had been increased to Rs 9,500 crore in 2009 -10 from only Rs 3,600 crore in 2005 - 2006.

“How does the plan size increase if the state is not working?” he asked.

Taking loan for development of the state was not bad but not making sustainable use of it was, the minister said.

Coming down heavily on the Centre for delay in increasing the royalty for minerals, Mr. Ghadai said Orissa had lost huge revenue due to it.

“We have made several attempts to increase royalty. Even our chief minister along with CMs of five other states met the Prime Minister in this regard. But the result was nil,” he said.

While the Centre was granting additional funding to West Bengal, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, it ignored the requirement of Orissa, the finance minister alleged.