BHUBANESWAR: Ranendra Pratap Swain of the BJD put the State Government in an embarrassing situation in the Assembly on Friday over the issue of freebies distributed by the Government to beneficiaries, including schoolchildren as Industries Minister Niranjan Pujari parried questions in this regard.
Swain hinted that a huge kickback is involved in the purchase of freebies from companies outside Odisha for distribution among the beneficiaries. The BJD member asked about the expenditure made by the Government for purchase of laptops, cycles, school uniform, blankets, shoes and other items which are being distributed among the beneficiaries under different welfare schemes.
He criticised the Government for purchase of these items from outside the State without making any effort to source the same from within the State. Most of the members’ queries, which turned out to be uncomfortable for the Government, were not answered by the Minister.
Stating that such a question cannot be replied, the Minister said, “It is like counting stars in the sky.” Pujari also maintained that such a question should not have been allowed by the Speaker.Former minister Debi Prasad Mishra tried to come to the rescue of Pujari by advising the Minister to call a meeting of all departments to get a clear picture about the expenditure incurred. However, an irked Minister rebuffed Mishra’s advice. “Why Mishra, a former industry minister, did not do the same,” Pujari asked.
The Minister said, 15,000 laptops distributed by Higher Education Department among talented students every year are purchased by Odisha Computer Application Centre (OCAC) from original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplier. Besides, micro, small and medium enterprises registered with the State Government produce dress and shoes worth `19.08 crore and `1.64 crore respectively. The State Government provides bicycles free of cost to 5.6 lakh students of Class IX and X. The bicycles cost `2600 each, he said.
The Opposition Congress member Naba Kishore Das and Pradip Purohit (BJP) alleged outside the House that a huge kickback is involved in the purchase and distribution of freebies to the beneficiaries.
‘11 steel plants have shut operations’
Bhubaneswar: Eleven steel companies in Odisha have temporarily shut down operations while several others are yet to achieve their full installed capacity, said Minister for Steel and Mines Prafulla Mallick in the Assembly on Friday. Replying to a question from Naba Kishore Das (Cong), the Minister said Action Ispat and Power, Deepak Steel and Power, Jain Steel and Power, Maheswari Ispat, MSP Metallicks, Orissa Sponge Iron and Steel, Rathi Steel and Power, Thakur Prasad Sao and Sons, Concast Steel and Power, Sree Metalicks and Orion Ispat have shut operations. He said the running and closing down of steel plants depended on market demands. The Minister said, out of the 47 steel projects, several others have not achieved full production. While the total installed capacity of the projects was 28.25 million tonnes per annum (mtpa), they together had produced 9.95 mtpa in 2015-16 and 13.391 mtpa in 2016-17, he said. He said steel production has increased by 34 per cent in 2016-17 compared to 2015-16.