Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: Amid ruckus inside the Odisha Assembly over sapling plantation scam, Speaker P K Amat today directed Agriculture Minister P K Maharathy to make a statement on the alleged irregularities before the end of this session of the House.

The Monsoon session of Odisha Assembly will end on September 20.

The direction was given as the House witnessed three adjournments as opposition Congress and BJP members raised slogans over the sapling plantation irregularities.

As soon as the House made obituary reference to former minister Dolagobinda Pradhan, who passed away earlier in the morning, opposition chief whip Taraprasad Bahinipati of Congress along with his colleagues raised slogans.

The Congress members wanted a statement from the government on what action it has taken against the officers involved in the scam. Unable to run the House, Amat adjourned the proceeding thrice till 12.30 pm.

When the House reassembled, Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra of Congress said that the Agriculture minister has admitted in the House that there has been irregularities worth Rs 17.33 crore in sapling plantation activities. However, no action is taken so far.

"When government admits irregularities and is not taking any action against the officials, it shows that the government is involved in the scam. I demand the chief minister to respond. The government cannot keep quit. You ask the CM to make a statement and why officers involved in the incident were not prosecuted as per the law," Mishra said.

Stating that the government has "admitted" irregularities in floor of the House, BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo alleged that the government was protecting the officers.

Singhdeo alleged the then minister (Damodar Rout), who raised the issue, was removed from the ministry and the officers involved in the scam were reinstated in service.

Another BJP legislator, Rabi Nayak, demanded a CBI investigation into the case.

"In one district a scam worth Rs 250 crore has taken place and the amount is nearly Rs 800 crore across the State. Chief Minister should comment on this scam and we demand a CBI investigation into the scam," Nayak said.

On the other hand, BJD spokesperson Samir Das has alleged that the Opposition is intentionally creating disruption.

"The Opposition is deliberately trying to disrupt the question answer session to gain political mileage," Das said.

(With PTI inputs)