Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Sambalpur, Mar 30:
Agitated Biju Janata Dal (BJD) workers today locked the Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) head office at Burla near here protesting against MCL’s pulling out from the Odisha government’s cheap meal programme ‘Aahaar’ for urban poor.
Agitators led by BJD’s Rairakhol and Sambalpur MLAs Rohit Pujari and Dr Raseswari Panigrahi staged a demonstration in front of the MCL headquarters at Burla to protest against the company’s decision to pull out from its agreement with the state government for the ‘Aahaar’ scheme. As agitators locked the premises, the employees who had come to join their duties had to leave for their homes without attending to their duties.
“We will continue with our agitation till the management revokes its decision,” said Pujari.
BJD workers also protested at MCL’s mines at Talcher affecting production and transportation of coal, an official of MCL said.
“There was no production and dispatch of coal from the mines of Talcher coalfields. Workers did not join the first shift at 6 a.m.,” MCL public relations officer Dikken Mehra said.
Although the MCL initially promised to contribute, later it backed out saying that the proposal was not approved by its board of directors, BJD spokesman Pratap Keshari Deb said.
“If the MCL can contribute hundreds of crore rupees to Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat scheme, why cannot it give Rs.3 crore annually to a meal scheme?” he said.
“It was a 12-hour token strike today. We wanted to convey a message. If MCL wants to operate here, it has to take care of the state’s interest,” he added.
Talcher coalfields contributes more than half of the MCL’s 400,000 tonnes of daily output. MCL is a subsidiary of state-run Coal India Ltd.
The government’s much talked about ‘Aahar’ scheme is aimed to provide lunch at Rs 5 in five urban centres from April 1 and MCL which had agreed to extend financial support to the subsidised food programme backed out in the last minute.