Bhubaneswar, Aug. 17: The state election commission has taken exception to the government’s decision to launch the Raja Harischandra scheme on August 15 after the model code of conduct came into force on August 12 ahead of the civic polls.
Under the scheme, the state will extend financial assistance for cremation of the poor. The commission today sought reply of the Puri district collector, who had reportedly launched the scheme from Puri Swargadwar (cremation ground), to explain the reasons behind the decision to go ahead with the scheme.
On August 15, the district administration had provided free firewood and other materials for the funeral ceremonies of nine persons.
In his reply, district collector Naba Kishore Nayak said the scheme was announced on August 6 and the government had issued the order to implement it from August 15. The financial burden of the scheme will be borne by the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and as such it does not violate the model code of conduct, sources said. The collector has also made it clear that he did not take part in the function. Sources at the commission said it was examining whether any assistance other than relief and restoration from the fund amounted to violation of the model code of conduct.
“Our view is that money given under the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for relief and restoration purposes does not invite the model code of conduct. But, money given for this specific purpose certainly is a contentious issue. We are examining it,” said a senior official of the state election commission.
The commission is also believed to have sought the assistance of the electronic medium to verify the claim of the district collector that he was not present during the programme launch. Collectors are the district election officers who conduct the urban elections in their respective districts, sources said.
According to the scheme, the administration will provide financial assistance between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 to poor families for cremation. An exception has been made in case of Puri, where the district administration, through the municipality, will supply firewood, ghee and other materials to poor people, who bring their relatives’ bodies to Swargadwar. In other districts, sarpanchs and chairpersons of the civic bodies have been empowered to sanction funds. The scheme also covers people coming forward to cremate unclaimed bodies.