Opposition stages walkout from Odisha Assembly during Governor's address

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Bhubaneswar, Feb 18 (PTI) The Budget session of the Odisha assembly started on a stormy note on Thursday with opposition Congress and BJP members staging a walkout as soon as Governor Ganesh Lal started addressing the House.

The Congress members led by its whip Taraprasad Bahinipati raised slogans and urged the governor to stop reading out his speech in praise of the BJD government.

The BJP members also followed suit and walked out of the House.

While the Congress was critical over the Andhra Pradesh government conducting rural polls in a cluster of villages at Kotia in Odisha's Koraput district, rising fuel prices and law and order situation, the BJP members raised issues relating to Kotia polls, irregularities in paddy procurement and rising incidents of political violence.

After staging the walkout from the House, the Opposition members sat on a dharna near Mahatma Gandhi's statue on the Assembly premises.

The governor in his speech said that the overall law and order situation in the state had remained peaceful during 2020.

No major law and order incident had teken place due to the proactive role of the police, he said.

The police successfully handled the COVID-19 situation and as many as 49 police personnel sacrificed their lives in the line of duty during the pandemic, and 940 police personnel donated plasma to save the lives of critical coronavirus patients.

'The Left Wing Extremism scenario has remarkably reduced during the past five years due to proactive security and administrative response,' Lal said.

On the economic front, the governor said, the state government was able to plough back about Rs 2,800 crore by mopping up government money parked in bank accounts.

One Time Settlement (OTS) schemes have been introduced for the realisation of revenue arrears, he said.

The state government has been able to collect revenue amounting to Rs 38,760 crore by the end of January, 2021 which is about 7.3 per cent more than the collection during the corresponding period of the previous year, the governor said.

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic posed a unique challenge to Odishas public finances, the governor said, the crisis resulted in shrinkage in fiscal space which compelled the government to reprioritise its public spending to meet the higher demand for spending on COVID management, creating livelihood opportunities, promoting agriculture as well as the Industries and MSME sector for employment generation.

As a temporary measure, the corpus of the Contingency Fund was enhanced from Rs 400 crore to Rs 2,000 crore to provide the required fiscal space for aggressive response to the pandemic, he said.

The government also adopted an innovative way to avail cheaper sources of financing from surplus cash balance in dedicated funds, like Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and Odisha Mineral Bearing Areas Development Corporation (OMBADC), to maintain the required liquidity during the crisis.

The Budget session started with strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines and all members had to produce corona- negative reports for entering the House.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had attended the previous two sessions of the Assembly on virtual mode, was physically present in the House on Thursday. PTI AAM MM MM