Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 6:
Thousands of people across the five cities in Odisha where the much hyped ‘Aahar’ scheme was launched on April 1 had to return disappointed on Sunday after finding the counters closed. There was no notice put up on the board nor anyone present at the counters to inform them about this ‘unscheduled holiday’.
The early birds across the ‘Aahar’ centres were seen queuing up since 10 am, one hour ahead of the scheduled opening time. The crowd swelled with passage of time and waited anxiously for the doors to be unbolted so that they could collect the tokens to avail the subsidised meal. Their hunger and frustration soared with the rising mercury.
Some were seen breaking away from the serpentine queue while others were seen holding on to their posts for a square meal of ‘Rice and Dalma’. People were seen inquiring till 3 pm, the scheduled time for closing of the centres, but there were no answers forthcoming.
The scene was more or less the same at all the centres across five cities—Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Brahmapur, Rourkela and Sambalpur—in the state where the Rs 5 a meal scheme had been launched on Utkal Divas after hiccups following pull out of PSUs from sponsoring the scheme.
At some centres, the visitors were seen abusing the authorities for their callous attitude and not putting up a notice about the closure.
A source said on condition of anonymity that it was pre-decided to keep the centres closed on Sundays for their maintenance as food will be prepared for thousands of people on a daily basis.
But it begs the question: why were the people not beforehand about it? The least it could have done was to put up a sign board informing them about the closure on Sunday, people were heard muttering in disgust.
While the state government has made maximum use of the space inside the centres to publicise the schemes launched during the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) regime, it has conveniently forgotten to inform the people about the closure on Sundays.
Within four days of delivering the subsidised food scheme, the government has come under severe criticism as the much-hyped scheme has run into rough weather over its alleged mismanagement.
While people complained of a fall in the quality of food served as compared to what was served on the inaugural day, some complained about lack of drinking water facilities and the withdrawal of pickle from the menu. Surprisingly, the take-away option (packed food for four persons) seems to be the inaugural day offer as it has been discontinued after a day.
Besides the quality, the quantity of food served has dropped significantly from unlimited servings initially to just one helping a person now.
“For the first two days, they were serving a fair quantity of food to an individual. But now they are serving food that is insufficient for an adult. When being asked for second time, they come up with rude replies,” a person who was at the receiving end of harsh words from the staff said.