Odisha BJP MP's free food scheme for needy in Bhubaneswar irks civic body
- Clearly aimed at slum dwellers, who form the bulk of Bhubaneswar's electorate, Sarangi's lunch on wheels for the poor has not pleased officials in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.
Ahead of the upcoming civic polls in Odisha, the fight between BJP and BJD seems to have intensified with BJP's Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi getting into a conflict with the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation over its diktat that no one would be allowed to give food and clothes free of cost to the poor and homeless people in the state capital.
Sarangi, a former IAS officer of Odisha cadre who won from the prestigious Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency had started an organisation called Annapurna Trust for feeding poor people in the city free-of-cost. The project was started a month ago on a trial run basis in Bhubaneswar for providing cooked meals to 200 poor and hungry people, but an announcement was made to scale up.
“Annapurna will provide hot meals everyday to needy people residing in Bhubaneswar during lunchtime. Five organisations have joined hands for this initiative. Every day, volunteers on two vehicles will distribute food to 750 people listed in the 1st phase,” said Sarangi who is the chief advisor of the Trust.
Clearly aimed at slum dwellers, who form the bulk of Bhubaneswar's electorate, Sarangi's lunch on wheels for the poor has not pleased officials in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.
“Poor people living on the roadside in the city hesitate to shift to the shelter homes being managed by the BMC due to free distribution of food and clothes by some organisations. It leads to failure in making the state capital a beggar-free city. Individuals and organisations may distribute free food and clothes to destitute people at shelter homes managed by the BMC after taking permission from it. In violation of the order, legal action will be taken against the individuals/organisations,” said BMC commissioner Prem Chandra Chaudhury.
After the BMC’s objection to giving free food, the MP said the order does not affect her plans as the trust would charge Re 1 for each meal. “Annapurna is not free. We are charging one rupee. It does not come under the BMC order purview,” said Sarangi.
Political analysts said Sarangi may have taken a leaf out of BJD's book on wooing the slum dwellers. “In April 2015, BJD had started the Aahar meal scheme in which 5 lakh people were getting lunch at ₹5 everyday at 110 centres. It helped the BJD in 2019 polls. So it's quite natural for Sarangi to adopt the same populist technique as no political party in Odisha can survive without such measures. But I hope as Bhubaneswar MP she brings structural changes to the lives of slum dwellers,” said Gyana Ranjan Swain, professor of political science in Ravenshaw University.
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