Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Intellectuals of Orissa are divided over official supply of rice at the rate of Rs.2 per kg to 59 lakhs of families that are in our opinion families under slow starvation categorized as people below the poverty line (BPL).

The impartial intellectuals view it as Navin Patnaik’s chief ministerial acrobatics aimed at evading wrath of the starved peoples at the polling booths whereas the hardcore admirers of Navin are shocked over the announcement sans study of its economy even though some of them maintain that whatever be the motive behind the scheme and its financial implications, it is good that the wretched poor is going to get rice at the cheapest rate.

But people who bask under the Biju Janata brand are most happy as this official adventure provides them with umpteen opportunities to bag black money by bilking the illiterate and ignorant beneficiaries of their rice quota and selling the same in the black-market.

For an instance we may look at what happened at the Biju Janata Club in village Rekhideipur of Dharmasala Block on August 6 and 7. Under the banner of Biju Janata, local political hooligans were dealing in BPL rice taking the dealership in the name of a member of their group. BPL cardholders intimidated by the hooligans had handed over their cards to their front man officially appointed as the dealer, who, through ghost entry of supply in the cards, was swindling the rice meant for the beneficiaries. The same rice was being disposed off in the black market at higher rate.

Compelled by an unbending picket of protesters, the Block Development Officer had no other way than conducting a raid. On his information, that he was compelled to lodge with the local police, the Biju Janata Club was sealed with police on guard in the late afternoon of August 6 and on the next day, officers of civil supply department with local Tahsildar and Magistrate unsealed the Club and seized from inside the Club around 25 Quintals of BPL rice and many more empty bags. In an extended inquiry, the team seized many BPL ration cards as well as job cards issued to beneficiaries under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, but over and above this, many publicity leaflets of Biju Janata Dal.

This is not a solitary instance. On August 6 a truckload of BPL rice in transition to black market was seized by villagers of Beruanbari near Bahadajhola of Odagaon Block and handed over to Police. An embarrassed administration has suspended the dealer concerned and the area Inspector of Civil Supply in a damage control attempt.

These are just stray instances.

Had the local public, disgusted with the rampant hypocrisy that Navin administration stands for, not seized the BPL rice in transition to black market in both the cases, officials would never have dared to conduct the raids and the scheme behind the scheme could never have been dragged to official records.

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