Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Se 23:
As if the Great Odisha chit fund scam, the mining scam and the coal scam were not enough, we now have a Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell scam, which has apparently been flourishing with the active participation of grassroots level workers of the ruling BJD, particularly in the Chief Minister’s home district of Ganjam.
The audacity of the kingpins of the racket takes one’s breath away. Hundreds of poor – mostly old men and women, differently abled and widows, have been lured into signing (or giving their thumb impressions) on purported application forms and parting with amounts ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 2, 000 after promising them grants ranging from Rs 20, 000 to Rs 50, 000 from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF).
Hundreds of them are packed into trains and brought here to meet the Chief Minister in person and get the grant. Widows are promised a grant of Rs 10, 000 while differently abled are promised Rs 50, 000 each.
Hundreds of poor people, a majority of them old and infirm, packed into the Palasa-Bhadrak DMU at Golanthara and Sorala stations to come to Bhubaneswar yesterday. The Ganjam district administration offloaded 51 old men and women from a bus at Chhatrapur, the district headquarters, and detained the agent who was escorting them to Bhubaneswar yesterday. Another dalal from Banpur has been detained in Beguniapada.
Reports coming in from the interiors suggest that the rumour has spread like wildfire and dalals are working overtime to rope in gullible poor people in every block of the district.
The issue was serious enough for the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) to issue a press note yesterday clarifying that no such grant was being given and urging people not to be taken in by the false promises of dalals.
As if on cue, the Ganjam administration ordered local officials to announce through public address systems in the interiors that it was a rumour and asking them not to fall into the trap of the middlemen.
But activists are not convinced with the CMO’s belated efforts at damage control. “I wonder why the CMO, instead of issuing a belated clarification after hundreds have already been fleeced, is not announcing the disbanding of the CM’s grievance cell altogether. In any case, the CM has not found the time to attend his grievance cell even once during the last five years,” said one of them.