Bhubaneswar,: Poll politicking runs faster in the veins of India’s one of the longest serving Chief minister Navin Patnaik’s government than any other welfare or developmental project. The latest example is the holding up of the Fortification Rice Distribution Scheme for over two years in Odisha’s most malnourished populated district Malkangiri. On 29 July 2021, Odisha government rolled out ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ (ONORC) programme in the state. The same day NavinPatnaik announced the launching of Fortified Rice Distribution Scheme in Malkangiri District. A press note from chief minister’s office says, the Fortified Rice blending with Vitamin B-12, Folic acid and micronutrients would be greatly helpful for the malnourished poor women and adolescent girls of the district. This scheme is being launched as a pilot project. Malkangiri district has the highest malnourished population in the state. More than 50 percent women in the district are anaemic. According to Health Survey report the district is ranked third among 100 districts in the country having highest malnutrition children. Seven out of every ten children happen to be under weight. This pilot project will play a crucial role in addressing the nutritional deficiencies among the poor especially women and girls in the district, CM Patnaik said.
While the state government was busy chest thumping about the project benefits, documentary evidences exposed the shocking covert design of the government. Verification of documents and parliamentary proceedings contradict Odisha government’s claim that the project is the sole initiative of the state. A recent Reply on 27 July 2021 to a question in the Parliament, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, minister of state of Rural Development and Consumer affairs has said the Fortification of Rice and distribution under Public Distribution Scheme is a Government of India approved Centrally sponsored pilot scheme for a period of 3 years beginning in 2019-20. The pilot project focuses on 15 districts across 15 states. For Odisha, Malkangiri is chosen as beneficiary district. While most of the project states have already started the scheme, Odisha government held up the implementation of the scheme for over 2 years. Not only that, while the state government claims the entire credit of the project it is silent on the role of the union government.
The revelation has left many in doubt. Why did Navin Patnaik, who is always in search of populist schemes and projects, stall the proposal for more than two years? ‘The reason is poll politicking, for which Navin Babu delayed the scheme and deprived the poor people of Malkangiri district getting the fortified rice’, alleges Satya Prakash Nayak, congress leader. Had the state government not delayed the scheme lakhs of poor and malnourished people of Malkangiri would have been hugely benefitted in last two years. Navin babu sat over the proposal and launched it recently keeping his sight on the forthcoming Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies elections, says Nayak. Let poor people of Malkangiri suffer but Navin babu’s priority lies in how much political benefit his party would get out of the scheme. And that’s the sole reason why he waited for two years to launch at a time close to polls. Interestingly the expensive ad-campaign in newspapers is silent on the central government’s role in the project with an intention to take entire credit out of the scheme, which is unfortunate, says Satya Nayak.