| In session
Bhubaneswar, June 1: The Orissa Assembly was thrown out of gear in the morning when Opposition members stormed the Well of the House, forcing several adjournments, over reports of villagers eating stones due to lack of food.
However, by late evening, before the budget was presented, the tables turned for the enraged Opposition, as revenue minister Manmohan Samal told a stunned Assembly of how two television journalists — Puturam Sunani and Meghnad Kharsel — belonging to a local channel had “tutored” the footage as well as the locals “to eat stones before camera”.
“The reports are totally false and motivated. The locals said the journalists told them to eat the stones, as those were ‘medically beneficial’ and like panacea for joint pains, headache and stomach-aches,” Samal told those gathered.
“The said villages are covered under Western Orissa Rural Livelihood Programme. The people there have vehemently denied the allegations that they eat stones as food. They stated (before our officials) that they eat rice, ragi and dal as food,” the minister added.
Samal further added that the revenue department officials checked the Antoday Anna Yojana card of Barusingh Pahadia, who was shown eating the stones. “The person received 70 kg of rice on March 17 and another 70 kg on May 5 this year,” he said.
Samal also added that a criminal case has been lodged against the reporters Puturam Sunani and Meghnad Kharsel of the TV channel at the Sinapali police station under Sections 124 (A), 417 and 34 of IPC.
The circle inspector of Khariar is investigating the case. “I welcome a probe by a Assembly committee into the ‘starvation’ issue, as well as an inquiry into the role of the media in this matter,” the minister fumed.
In the morning, as soon as the Question Hour began, leader of Opposition, J.B. Patnaik drew the House’s attention to the media reports, which said that people of Sinapali block of Nuapada were forced to “consume” stones when hungry.
He demanded that the matter be taken up for discussion, suspending all other businesses listed for the day. All bench members in the Opposition rose to support the demand.
However, Speaker Maheswar Mohanty expressed his inability to discuss the matter today, saying that he received the Opposition’s notice for it only this morning.