Even as intense heat wave has thrown normal life out of gear in the last few days in Odisha, the state government has decided to provide umbrellas to differently-abled, widows, destitutes and old persons to tide over the summer. The umbrellas will also come in handy for them in the rainy season that will follow the summer.
“An amount of Rs. 33 crore will be spent for the purpose to assist 33 lakh beneficiaries (in the state),” chief minister Naveen Patnaik said on Tuesday.
Each beneficiary – including 16 lakh state government’s Madhubabu pension holders and 17 lakh National pension holders – will get Rs. 100 each so that they utilize the amount to purchase umbrellas. People’s representatives and government officials would be involved in the distribution of the money, an official communication said..
Mercury has soared to 45 degree Celsius in many parts of Odisha in the past week. Sambalpur, Balangir and Talcher in the state have recorded more than more than 46 degree in the last two days. “The heat spell will continue for another three days,” SC Sahu, director Bhubaneswar meteorological department, said.
For the poor people, though, it is a case of better late than never as the beneficiaries will have to wait for about a month till June 15 when the amount will be distributed to them along with their monthly pension throughout the state.
The opposition parties and social activists, on the other hand, described the move as a gimmick with an eye on the general elections next year as the process of distribution of money involved elected representatives, most of whom – 108 out of total 147 – belong to the ruling Biju Janata Dal.
“The chief minister clearly has no idea when there is intense heat and when monsoon sets in. It is just public money being spent with an eye on votes,” said BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari.
Social activist Rabi Das said: “When the state government has failed to provide safe drinking water and create water bodies in most parts of rural areas, distributing money for umbrellas on June 15 when the peak summer will be almost over seems ludicrous. This is yet another addition to several sops that Patnaik has been doling out in the recent months as if he is paying from his own pocket.”
In the recent months, the state government has announced Re 1 per kg rice scheme for the poor, bi-cycles to students, blankets to old people, mobile phones to farmers and many other schemes described as populist by the opposition.