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Scam fire in Odisha Assembly

- BJD, Cong slugfest over mining case & price hike

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 25: Politics of mining and fertiliser today dominated the Assembly proceedings with the Opposition Congress and the BJD trading charges against each other.

The Congress accused the state government of being scared to discuss the mining scam issue while the BJD tried to turn the table on the Congress by demanding a discussion on increase in fertiliser prices during the UPA regime at the Centre.

The Speaker today did not allow an adjournment motion on the mining scam tabled by the Congress on the ground that the discussion on the budget would have to be completed today.

“The government is shy of the mining scam on the eve of visit of the Shah commission, which is probing into the scam,” said Congress member Santosh Singh Saluja.

Saluja alleged that family members and relatives of ministers were involved in illegal mining. A minister’s son was a big-time transporter of minerals. The Congress member accused the government of attempting to delay the process of the Shah commission’s inquiry by seeking more time to furnish the information sought for.

Ruling party member Pradeep Maharathy strongly defended the government and made it clear that the BJD was ready for a discussion on the issue. “The Shah commission is not visiting the state for the first time. We are not scared of facing the probe,” he said.

In a counter-offensive, government deputy chief whip Sanjay Kumar Dasburma said fertiliser prices were hiked thrice in the past one year.

He said the Union government had allotted 6.12 lakh metric tonnes of fertiliser to Odisha during the last kharif season against a demand of 9.66 lakh tonnes, causing hardship to farmers. Dasburma urged the House to pass a unanimous resolution seeking a rollback in the prices.

Although Dasburma did not name Union minister of state for chemicals and fertilisers Srikant Jena, it was obvious that the party was targeting the lone Congress minister in the UPA government.

Jena had come under severe criticism by the BJD for the department of statistics, held by him, for portraying Odisha in a poor light in the recently concluded National Sample Survey.

Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan, however, contested the charge of scarcity of fertiliser. “The government claims that paddy yield in the state has gone up from 13 quintal per hectare to 23 quintal. How come is it possible without sufficient fertiliser consumption?” he asked.

Shifting the blame on the state government for the “artificial” fertiliser scarcity, Harichandan alleged that around 60 per cent fertiliser allotted by the Centre did not reach the consumers.

The discussion in the Assembly reflected the war of words that the ruling party and the main Opposition have been engaging in over the twin issues outside it.

The Congress has time and again accused the state government of trying to protect the accused in the mining scam and project wrong figures to hide the truth. The BJD has sought to counter it with an attack on the Congress-led UPA, which it has accused of neglecting Odisha in all spheres, the latest example being its unwillingness to provide adequate fertiliser to the farmers of the state.