By Subrat Das*
Bhubaneswar: Chief minister and Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik has focused on the youths, especially the New Age voters. His government has constituted a youth volunteer corpus christened as “Biju Yuva Vahini” for which it will spend Rs 1.5 lakh per unit per year and has been organizing youth conventions across the state.
Youth constitute around 42 percent of state’s 4.2 crore population. Moreover, around 5.45 lakh New Age voters in the age group of 18-19 years have been enrolled this year in the updated voter list, as known from the Chief Electoral Officer’s office sources.
In this context, ruling Biju Janata Dal has eyed this category of the voters. The government has formed 8000 odd Biju Yuva Bahini units in all the 6799 gram panchayats and 114 urban local bodies, whose membership has crossed 3 lakh.
Over the last one month, state government has organized 12 to 14 youth conventions across the state, which have been addressed by the chief minister. These conventions have been well attended by the youths.
Each registered unit is being provided government grant of Rs 1.5 lakh per year. The objective is to promote volunteerism and socio-cultural activities.
However, the opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been alleging that the Naveen Patnaik government in the state have been recruiting ruling BJD workers at the cost of the state exchequer on the eve of the elections. “Biju Yuva Vahini scheme has been introduced to loot government funds and woo young voters”, said Pradesh Congress Committee vice president Arya Kumar Gyanendra. This was also echoed by the BJP spokesperson Golak Mohapatra, who said that the Biju Yuva Vahini was being used for political activities and not for social good. “The government could have engaged these volunteers in Maoist-infested areas”, he said.
However, ruling BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra defended the government’s pro-youth initiatives. Around 9 lakh educated youths in the state have been skilled and 96,000 have been given placement-link. Meritorious students are being given loan at 1 percent interest under “Kalinga Saathi Yojana” for prosecuting higher studies. The state government has launched Youth Policy in 2013 for the overall development of the youth community and recently it has formed Biju Yuva Vahini. “But all these initiated are aimed at development of the youth, and not aimed at electoral gain”, he said.
“The effort of the opposition parties to politicise these initiatives is unfortunate”, commented Patra.
The writer is a journalist currently working with Sambad Group as Consultant Editor of Group Digital Edition.