MCL’s operations stalled due to BJD protest over ‘Aahar’ scheme

Bhubaneswar: The mining operations at Talcher coalfields were hit today as supporters of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) staged protests against Mahanadi Coal Fields Ltd (MCL) for refusing to support a subsidised meal scheme, an official said.

“There was no production and dispatch of coal from the mines of Talcher coalfields. Workers did not join the first shift at 6 a.m.,” MCL public relations officer Dikken Mehera told IANS.

He said hundreds of protesters led by the local BJD legislator also staged demonstration in front of the corporate headquarters of the MCL in Burla town in Sambalpur district.

The State government had sought financial contribution from the MCL and other state and central public sector undertakings to Aahar, a subsidised meal scheme it announced recently for urban poor.

The scheme is scheduled to be launched on April 1. Under the scheme, rice and dal curry would be served daily to around 25,000 urban poor at Rs 5 per meal in five cities.

Although the MCL initially promised to contribute, later it backed out saying that the proposal was not approved by its board of directors, BJD spokesman Pratap Keshari Deb told IANS.

“If the MCL can contribute hundreds of crore rupees to prime minister’s Swachh Bharat scheme, why cannot it give Rs 3 crore annually to a meal scheme?” he said.

“It was a 12-hour token strike today (Monday). We wanted to convey a message. If it (MCL) wants to operate here, it has to take care of the State’s interest,” he said.

Talcher coalfields contributes more than half of the MCL’s 400,000 tonnes of daily output. MCL is a subsidiary of state-run Coal India Ltd.