Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
For the last eight years, under-nourished expectant mothers and school going kids belonging to the poor families in Orissa have been administered with slow-poison by the government led by Naveen Patnaik, as the officially supplied Dal to school going kids and expectant mothers under the Midday Meal (MDM) scheme and Supplementary Nutrition Program (SNP) was all along adulterated with the most harmful grain: Khesari, over and above being worm-eaten, rotten and fungus infested.
Khesari is the cheapest grain available in the market; cheapest because, it is toxic and carcinogenic. Its cultivation is banned in Orissa since around three decades.
But after bagging contracts to supply dal under the above two programs, the dishonest traders are financing farmers in advance for its cultivation and collecting the poisonous seeds in the cheapest possible rate and adulterating Arhar Dal – they are contracted to supply – with Khesari, fetching thereby profuse profit. They also import substandard dal from beyond Orissa, as vigilance police has unearthed, in lower prices and make huge profit by supplying the same in double the rate. The scam, roughly estimated, in terms of rupees, exceeds 3000 crores.
Time and again school children have protested against inedible food. Even kids have succumbed to food poisoning. Their protests have always been suppressed.
It is a matter of shame that the CM and his tainted team maintain that the crime was not within their knowledge. If it is true, then it is true that these fellows have no qualification to rule the State, as they admit about their inability to understand how administration runs under them and what others say of their government.
Apart from innumerable reports in the media, which the government cannot feign ignorance about, as its information officers must have routinely placed them before the ministers concerned and the Chief Minister, it was challenged in a case before the Supreme Court of India in 2004 that the People’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL) had raised against the pernicious felony. In this case, the court had issued direction on how to eliminate compromise in quality of the dal procured for the purpose.
Naveen Patnaik government was so much hand-in-glove with the dishonest suppliers that it sloughed over the supreme court verdict.
This serious crime having crossed all limits, even a section of party colleague of the Chief Minister having shunned their silence over the discernible havoc being played upon the lives of the school going kids and expectant mothers, people in every nook and corner of the state had started condemning the government as vociferously as possible and the climate was taking such a turn that a violent mass uprise against Naveen’s misrule was growing wings.
There was frantic search in the fidgeted camp of the CM for avenues to escape. The only avenue readily available was jettisoning the Child and Women Welfare minister Pramila Mallik. She was summoned to the CM’s residence and on return from there, she resigned on February 5.
Press in general is one in reporting that the minister resigned, because she was asked to resign at the cost of dismissal. But Ms. Mallik as well as the super-supremo of the ruling BJD, Pyari Mohan Mohapara, who as a former bureaucrat has mastered the art of hoodwinking, maintain that she has resigned on conscience ground owing responsibility for the Dal scam, even though the state vigilance police had given her a clean chit.
Let us believe that she has resigned on conscience ground. Where has gone the Chief Minister’s conscience?