Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

In a bid to facilitate reliable and affordable transportation for people in rural areas and make women self-reliant across the State, the Odisha Cabinet has approved the Location Accessible Multimodal Initiative (LAccMI) scheme. However, Opposition parties have put a question mark over the execution of the scheme. Moreover, they have alleged that the State government is trying to deceive people ahead of the 2024 General Election by luring them with the new scheme.

The approval of the LAccMI scheme in the cabinet has triggered a political slugfest in the State. As per the new scheme, it will establish a seamless public transport network across the State from Gram Panchayat level up to the State Capital to provide reliable and affordable services. 

Apart from facilitating affordable transportation to people in rural areas and making women self-reliant, the scheme also aims to transport agricultural products to the market. Within the framework of the scheme, Mission Shakti Self-Help Groups (SHGs) will be engaged in various operations and maintenance-related activities within the blocks.

The project cost is estimated to be approximately Rs 3178 Cr in the first three years of the bus operation, from 2023-24 to 2025-26. The bus operation under this scheme has been planned to connect all the GPs, Block Headquarters, District Headquarters, major cities, and economic hubs across the State.

LAccMI Scheme would be implemented in a phased manner. About 1000 buses would be deployed under the Scheme. The tenure of the scheme would be for 10 years further extendable by two years.

However, hitting the ruling party hard, Opposition parties have claimed that the scheme is meant to lure the voters ahead of the General Election. As per the Opposition, the scheme will be closed like many other schemes of the State government and it will have no impact on people.

“The scheme is only meant to hoodwink people and lure them ahead of the election. However, people are now aware about the cunningness of the ruling BJD. They will give their mandate against it,” said senior BJP leader, Prithviraj Harichandan.

“BJD is adept in re-launching old schemes in new names only to divert the attention of the people and lure them to vote in their favour. However, they have no real intention to execute and implement the scheme properly. It will have no bearing on the people,” said Congress leader Bijay Patnaik.

However, BJD brushed aside the allegation by the Opposition parties.

“The new scheme is meant for the convenience of people and not to lure them to vote in favour of the BJD. The matter should not be politicized. Whatever, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik does is for the welfare of the people,” said Planning and Coordination Minister, Rajendra Dholakia.

Meanwhile, the Odisha Private Bus Owners’ Association has also opposed the LAccMI scheme. As per the association, while private bus operators have been providing transportation facilities in the rural areas of the State, there is no need to launch another scheme.

“Let them ply buses under the scheme in urban areas. Private bus operators have been providing transportation services in rural areas for the last 40 years. Our business will be hampered if the scheme is implemented. It’s also a matter of our livelihood. We will definitely stage protest against the scheme,” said Debashis Nayak, spokesperson of Odisha Private Bus Owners’ Association.

Earlier in February 2014, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced a similar scheme named Biju Gaon Gadi Yojana. However, the scheme failed due to a lack of proper execution and implementation. Now, questions are being raised on why another scheme on similar lines has been launched?

“Biju Goan Gadi Yojana is a total failure due to poor execution and corruption. Now LAccMI scheme has been brought to hoodwink people. It will never be executed and implemented properly,” said Jitendra Behera, a resident of Mohana.

The State government often brings many schemes ahead of the elections. Schemes like PEETHA and Biju Yuva Bahini were launched before the 2019 election. However, both schemes were subsequently closed. Now, it remains to be seen for how long the LAccMI scheme will continue?