Even as the ruling Biju Janata Dal is gearing up for observing hartal across the State on Friday to highlight its demand for special State category status for Odisha, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik met President Pranab Mukherjee with the same demand on Thursday.

Mr. Patnaik submitted a memorandum to the President urging him to grant special State category status for Odisha.

The State had been demanding revision in the criteria for special category status for a long time, he said.

“Even after 66 years of independence, the State lags behind the national average on almost all development indicators, and the gap between the Odisha and other prosperous States has been widening,” said Mr. Patnaik.

The OPCC president also said 22 out of 30 districts of the State had been affected by Maoist violence, which was largely caused by development and governance deficits. The shift in the policy was the need of the hour so that it could help backward States like Odisha to acquire the special category status.

Bestowing the special category status to the State was necessary, considering the acute backwardness, low per capita income, increasing poverty ratio, unemployment among others, Mr. Patnaik said in the memorandum.

Fund allocation

Stating that recently substantial allocation under the Backward Regions Grant Fund had been made for Bihar and the State received a smaller share, Mr. Patnaik said this had raised a feeling of injustice among the people and had fuelled greater expectations for higher Central allocations and special category status.

Mr. Patnaik further said that while it was true that the United Progressive Alliance government had been providing substantial funds to the State under various Central schemes, the State miserably failed to use the same.

Along with various scams and scandals, improper utilisation of Central funds became rampant in the State under the present BJD regime, he added.

Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee president submits a memorandum to President