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Flak over foodgrain figures

Opposition MLAs on Monday demand the end of the strike called by the Bihar Engineering Services Association. Picture by Deepak Kumar

The state government has gone the extra mile in ensuring food security to the poor and bettering the public distribution system (PDS) that had gone “moribund” ahead of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government taking over the state in 2005, food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak today said in the Assembly.

“The department’s budgetary provision has gone up to Rs 1,567.2 crore in 2013-14 against a meagre Rs 14.35 crore during 2004-05. The Centre granted only 2.28 million tonnes (MT) of foodgrain to be distributed among 65 lakh BPL families, listed in the records of the central agencies. But the actual number of BPL families in the state stood at 1.37 crore. The state has arranged 25,000 MT of foodgrain at a cost of Rs 8.5 crore to compensate the shortfall and ensure foodgrain in every poor household,” the minister read the statistics to buttress his claim.

Leader of Opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui, however, questioned Rajak comparing the figures with that of the previous government. Speaking outside the House, Siddiqui said: “It is wrong to compare the budgetary figures. The value of the money has gone substantially down in the seven to 10 years and the prices of the commodity, too, have risen astronomically.”

No special status for jailed former legislators

The state government on Monday said there was no provision of according an upper division status to former MPs and ex-legislators in jails. Responding to a question by JD(U) MLA Ranvijay Kumar, who is serving a jail term for murder, minister Vijay Choudhary said the provision for according upper division status was for MPs, ministers, legislators, former Speakers and former deputy Speakers but not for former MPs and legislators. Upper division status is generally accorded to public representatives and politicians arrested for political activities. Prisoners with such status get better food, a cot, a pillow, a mattress and mosquito net and are lodged in separate cells away from general prisoners. However, those booked under criminal offences are not entitled to the status. Therefore, in most cases, VIP inmates prefer to be referred to a hospital on health grounds.

Engineers turn down resume-work appeal

Ignoring the state government’s appeal to resume duty, Bihar Engineering Services Association (Besa) members on Monday decided to continue with their indefinite strike.

Around 5,000 government engineers are on strike from the first week of February demanding pay hike, promotion and some other benefits. On Monday, the government asked them to resume duty guaranteeing that no disciplinary action would be taken against them. But the Besa turned down the appeal of the deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, on behalf of the government.

Replying to a call attention in the Assembly, Modi said once the engineers joined duty, the government would issue notifications in favour of their demands having no financial implications. “A high-level committee would be constituted to look into their financial demands. It would send recommendations to the state government,” he said. Dismissing the Opposition’s charge that the state government had made no effort to prevent the strike, Modi said road construction minister Nand Kishore Yadav and water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary had made attempts to persuade the engineers to not to go on strike.

“The ministers had made the same offers. But the engineers did not pay heed to them,” Modi said, adding that a large number of engineers had actually resumed duty.