Naveen engages state PSUs for Aahar scheme as CPSUs backtrack

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government today engaged state public sector units (PSU) for implementation of cheap meal programme “Aahar” for the poor in urban centres, after central PSUs allegedly refused to sponsor and fund the programme.

While the state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) would sponsor ‘Aahar’ programme in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, Odisha Power Generation Corporation would look after the cheap meal scheme at Rourkela.

Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) would sponsor the programme at Sambalpur, while Tata Steel has agreed to fund the cheap meal provision at Berhampur, an official release said here.

Earlier, the state government had asked Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) to sponsor the programme at Rourkela, while Mahanadi Coalfield Limited (MCL) was told to fund the cheap meal provision at Sambalpur.

However, the CPSUs refused to fund the programme on the plea that they could not fund a scheme of the state government from their CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds, alleged ruling BJD spokesman P K Deb.

Earlier, Patnaik had announced that the poor visiting the urban pockets faced difficulties in getting cheap food in cities and towns.

So, the state government decided to provide them cooked lunch comprising “Bhat and Dalma” (Rice and Dal) at the cost of only Rs 5 a meal between 11 AM to 3 PM at specific locations and each town would have four such Aahar centres.

The Chief Minister would inaugurate the programme at Rourkela and Bhubaneswar on April 1, the release said.

The ruling BJD MLAs also raised the issue in the Assembly and criticised the BJP-led NDA government of doing politics over the Aahar programme.

Irked over the CPSUs decision of not supporting the Aahar programme, agitated BJD workers today locked the Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) head office at Burla near Sambalpur.

BJD’s Rairakhol and Sambalpur MLAs Rohit Pujari and Dr Raseswari Panigrahi staged a demonstration in front of the MCL headquarters at Burla protesting against the company’s decision to pull out of its agreement with the state government for the scheme.

BJD workers also protested at MCL’s mines at Talcher affecting production and transportation of coal, an official said.