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Jena dares Naveen to debate

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 24: Levelling a slew of allegations against the BJD government, Union minister and senior Congress leader Srikant Jena today raised five major issues in a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik in the context of the upcoming civic elections in Bhubaneswar . The minister also challenged Naveen to a public debate on these issues.

Alleging that the bulk of Bhubaneswar’s land had been given away at throwaway prices to influential politicians, bureaucrats, hoteliers and judges, Jena dared the chief minister to release a white paper naming such beneficiaries.

He also sought to know what steps the government had taken to rehabilitate the slum dwellers for whose rehabilitation the UPA government had allocated money for building of pucca houses under Rajiv Awas Yojana.

The minister wondered why the power tariff in Bhubaneswar was higher than most other state capitals even though Odisha was one of the highest producers of power at a low cost.

“Can your please explain why is this happening, if not for your government’s connivance with private electricity companies who owe thousands of crores to Gridco and can still get away with raising prices every month? Why are these private companies not being audited? ” the letter asked the chief minister.

Pointing out that the UPA government had set up AIIMS in Bhubaneswar and was spending crores through National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) apart from allotting around Rs 800 crore through Employees State Insurance Corporation (ECIS) for a medical college in the city, Jena sought to know how many hospitals the state government had built in the last 15 years.

“All you seem to have done is allot valuable land at cheap prices to private hospitals and nursing homes who are now charging exorbitant fees from suffering patients,” the letter alleged.

The minister also wanted to know how many new government schools and colleges had been opened during the chief minister’s tenure even though the UPA government had set up an IIT, Indian Institute of Public Health and National Institute of Science and Education Research (NISER) in the state.

Jena alleged that private syndicates had been allowed to take over education in the city from nursery to college level charging exorbitant fees.

Alleging that the condition of urban infrastructure such as drains and sewage system in the capital city was appalling, he said the state government would find it impossible to blame the UPA for this as fund had been allocated for the purpose under Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM).

“If you can refute this please come for a one-on-one debate in any language and place of your choice during the urban body elections in Bhubaneswar,” the letter said.