Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 4:
Senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik today tore into the ‘Aahar’ scheme launched by the BJD government calling it a ‘populist stunt’ intended to fool the people, rather than a serious attempt to deal with the problem of hunger and malnutrition in Odisha.
“The poorest in Odisha neither live in the five major cities, nor do they ever visit these cities. The adivasis, the dalits, the peasants who have been suffering neglect, live in the villages and visit small towns to sell their produce in the weekly haat or at times small towns for medical care. The BJD government hardly wants to benefit these poor and needy people and has started the scheme at places where there are news reporters and television cameras. Naveen Babu wants publicity paid for by state-run or private companies. Food security is hardly his concern,”, commented Patnaik in a press statement issued today.
“Odisha Mining Corporation, Tata Steel and other companies who mine in districts like Keonjhar and Sundargarh do not distribute even a glass of water in the villages around their location, nor is there such a programme at the hospitals in Keonjhar or Bonai or Sundargarh. Why is it that people living in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur and Rourkela or visiting these cities have been found to be most deserving beneficiaries unless of course the idea is to get maximum publicity? On the other hand, the small hotel owners in these five cities will now be driven out of business and join the burgeoning ranks of the unemployed,” maintained the senior Congress leader.
Odisha has high incidence of hunger and malnutrition and therefore the concept of food security is nothing new Patnaik said adding that Naveen was not interested in food security as much as in garnering votes through publicity stunts.
Patnaik stated that the Chief Minister has a bleak view of the aspirations of the people in the state and thought that the people are so poor that these publicity stunts will be good enough to meet their aspirations even if no jobs are created or the plight of the farmers does not improve and that people will still vote for a model of development without real growth or job creation.
“On Odisha Day, the state Government proclaimed through an official advertisement that the ‘state has achieved pinnacle of success’. Presuming that the words were carefully chosen and was not a case of bad English, one cannot avoid thinking whether pinnacle of success of 16 years of rule is epitomized by the distribution of five rupees food packets,” the senior Congress leader wondered.
It would have been better for the government to claim success through the number of jobs that it had created, the improvement that it had made in the farm sector and the manner in which it had been able to generate growth and development, Patnaik said.
The entire scheme shows how Naveen Babu understands the aspirations of the state and how he understands people of Odisha, Patnaik commented.
“Let OMC and Tata Steel implement ‘Aahar Scheme’ in Keonjhar in the villages around the place where they are located, in Keonjhar town and other small towns. Food security in the periphery of a company’s active area is a legal work under CSR as per the new Company Act. But that should not amount to assisting with political propaganda,” the former PCC chief said.
There should be a broader debate on food security in Odisha and a proper methodology for implementation should be worked out to reduce incidence of hunger and mal-nutrition. Civil Society and media should make people aware of the manner in which the BJD Government has trivialized an important issue, converting it into a populist stunt, argued Niranjan.