Odisha govt’s ‘Aahar’ scheme may lead to food riots

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 12:

The much touted ‘Aahar’ scheme for the poor announced amid great fanfare by the Odisha government recently may end up leaving more people hungry than it feeds, if the blueprint drawn up by the government is anything to go by.


Food outlets to be opened by the government under scheme from April 1 in five major cities in the state – Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Brahmapur, Sambalpur and Rourkela – would feed rice and dalma (a preparation made of lentil and vegetables) to a total of 20, 000 poor people every day, 4, 000 in each of the five cities.

Four centres would be set up at important locations in each of these five cities; each of them would feed 1, 000 people between 11 am and 3 pm every day.

Given the number of poor living in and visiting these cities, a food riot situation cannot be ruled out. “What would happen if more than 1, 000 people turn up at a centre?” asks an activist

The curious seating arrangements under which just 10 people can be fed at a time gives rise to another problem. “At this rate, it would be evening by the stipulated 1, 000 are fed because it would need 100 batches,” the activist points out.

identifying the poor is certain to pose another major problem. How do the service providers ensure that the relatively well off do not take advantage of the highly subsidized food scheme. Will they be required to show their BPL cards? What if someone is unable to produce one? Will he or she be turned away?

As per the blueprint prepared by the Urban Development department, each meal would cost Rs 20 of which the state government will provide a subsidy of Rs 15 which would be borne by the different corporate bodies. The rest Rs 5 would be borne by the beneficiary.

The state government has asked the five corporate bodies—Tata, Odisha Mining Corporation, Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) and National Aluminium Company (Nalco) to bear the subsidy amount.

There will be a provision for concrete tables and chairs, fans and drinking water facilities at each centre.

The state government has entrusted two voluntary organisations—Touchstone Foundation and Manna Trust— to run the scheme.

There will be a central kitchen for preparation of meal in these cities from where they would be sent to the respective centres where uniformed volunteers of these two NGOs would serve the meals to the people.

The Urban Development department, the nodal agency for the scheme, has asked the Municipal commissioners of these five cities to make necessary arrangements before April 1.

The centres would be opened near the railway station, bus stand, Capital Hospital and the court in Bhubaneswar; SCB Medical College and Hospital, Sishu Bhawan, Badambadi bus stand and Malgodown in Cuttack; railway station, MKCG Medical College and Hospital, New Bus Stand and Old Bus Stand in Brahmapur; railway station, bus stand, Panposh Chhak and Vedvyas in Rourkela and railway station, government bus stand, Anthapalli bus stand and court in Sambalpur.

The government has also asked these municipal corporation authorities to regularly examine the food and water provided in these centres and provide water and electricity free of cost.

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