Youth activists of the ruling BJD today observed Black Day in protest against the Centre's alleged denial to allocate special category status for Odisha. Hundreds of BJD activists including MLAs sat on a dharna covering their mouths with black ribbons near the Raj Bhavan here to vent their anger against the UPA government.
While his party colleagues went on protest across the state, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, while addressing at least two public meetings, raised question on the Centre's decision to accord special category status to the newly formed Semandhra. "We have been demanding special category status to Odisha for long. The Centre, however, ignored our pleas on the ground that the state does not meet the required criteria," Patnaik said while addressing a public meeting at Chhatrapur in Ganjam district.
The Chief Minister also reiterated the issue at two others meetings which he addressed here.
The ruling BJD youth wing president and the government deputy chief whip Sanjay Dasburma, while leading the dharna near Raj Bhavan, said the state had been demanding the special category status since 1979.
A large number of party activists had courted arrest on February 24 while picketing near Rajbhavan, he pointed out.
Claiming that Odisha's demand was just and genuine, Dasburma said the maximum percentage of Dalits and Adivasis live in Odisha. Barring only one criteria, that of an international boundary, Odisha fulfills all conditions to get special status, he said. The ruling party leaders pointed out that the 10th, 11th and 14th Odisha Legislative Assembly have passed unanimous resolutions favouring the special category state status.
This apart, the Raghuram Rajan Committee in its report had also made it clear that more number of poor people live in Odisha than many other states, they said.
Meanwhile, the opposition Congress ridiculed the BJD's demand and clarified that Semandhra was accorded the special category status as Andhra Pradesh had been divided. "If the BJD wants to get the special category status, let it divide the state," Congress chief spokesman Narashningha Mishra told reporters.