Bullying of ‘challenger to’ ‘Aahar’: NGO moves Odisha rights panel

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 12:

Close to a week after a vendor selling vegetarian lunch at Rs 10 a meal at Capital Hospital in the city was at the receiving end of police high-mindedness, an NGO knocked the doors of the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) on Saturday seeking its intervention to ensure justice to the man.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the launching of Aahar scheme in Bhubaneswar on April 1. Pic: Biswaranjan
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the launching of Aahar scheme in Bhubaneswar on April 1.
Pic: Biswaranjan

The chairman of the Shastri Foundation in Odisha, Smruti Ranjan Lenka, petitioned the OHRC citing violation of Article 19 (1) of the Constitution.

“Aama Ghara Healthy Food’ has been providing food near the Capital Hospital in the city since 2012. However, one of the employees of the vendor was on April 3 threatened by police for selling food inside the hospital premises. Two days after the incident, police picked up its owner, Sanjay Kumar Das, and beat him up asking him to close his shop. A complaint in this regard was registered with the Capital police,” Smruti Ranjan Lenka said.

It may be recalled that Capital police had ‘detained’ Sanjay Kumar Das for selling his subsidised meal on April 5, four days after the Odisha government had launched its ‘Aahar’ scheme on Utkal Divas.

While the state government was providing subsidised meal for the urban poor at Rs 5 in five cities, ‘Aama Ghara Healthy Food’ was providing rice and dalma at Rs 10 at various locations in the capital city.

“The police threatened and thrashed the employees of the catering organisation at the insistence of some unscrupulous elements,” Lenka alleged.

As the incident infringed upon the basic human rights of Sanjay Kumar Das, the OHRC should take action against it, Lenka demanded, adding that the agitation would be intensified in the coming days.

“The police action was prompted by ‘invisible’ quarters, which were clearly concerned about the possibility of a ‘competitor’ emerging to the government’s own scheme since he was able to sell the same stuff that the latter spent Rs 20 a meal on for just Rs 10, a city-based dweller said on conditions of anonymity.

It may be noted that while the customers pay Rs 5 a meal for the government scheme, the rest Rs 15 is provided by corporate houses, mainly state government PSUs, as subsidy.

Notably, Article 19 (1) provides that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, to assemble peaceably and without arms, to form associations or unions, to move freely throughout the territory of India, to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India and to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

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