Mrunal Manmay Dash

Over Rs 5 crore was spent in last four years in plantation drives for beautification of Bhubaneswar, informed Odisha Urban Development Minister Usha Devi in Assembly on Thursday. She provided the information while answering a question by MLA Naba Charan Majhi in the Assembly. However, the Opposition has raised doubts on the expenditure.

As per Usha Devi, in 2019-20, 20,000 Bougainvillea and Iresine plants were planted across Bhubaneswar at a cost of Rs 1,87,41,552. In 2020-21, same kind of plants were planted and the cost incurred was Rs 2,88,33,982 including the cost of maintenance.

In 2021-22, Rs 33,18,702 was spent for the same Bougainvillea and Iresine plants and their maintenance. And in 2022-23, Rs 10,55,264 has been spent for 7000 plants, Usha Devi said.

However, the Opposition said that the ground reality seemed different from what is on paper. Apart from a few plants near Bhubaneswar airport and AG square, no Bougainvillea or Iresine plants can be found anywhere in Bhubaneswar, forcing the Opposition to allege corruption in the beautification drive.

Opposition Chief Whip and BJP leader, Mohan Majhi asked if so costly plants were planted, then where did they all go?

“Not even 5 percent of the claimed plants can be found on the streets. I will see that the corruption involved in it is exposed,” Majhi said.

However, Bhubaneswar Mayor, Sulochana Das’ statement on the plants has baffled many. “Those are seasonal plants and they tend to die. We will plant more such plants and see that they live longer,” she said.

Even the recently concluded Hockey World Cup saw another drive with many tree saplings being planted in the city. However, the situation of those saplings is no better now. Almost all the plants have either died or on the verge of dying sans maintenance.

(Reported By Chandan Paikray, OTV)