The Telegraph
Saturday , August 2 , 2014
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Pranab on ‘surrender’ spree

Bhubaneswar, August 1: BJD MLA Pranab Kumar Balabantaray, who is the son of Rajya Sabha member Kalpataru Das, today surrendered one more house allotted in his name by the Odisha State Housing Board.

The move comes in the wake of Balabantaray surrendering one of the two houses allotted to him by the Bhubaneswar Development Authority yesterday following a controversy over allotment of multiple houses and plots to members of Das’ family. The father and son had come under attack from some of their own party men on the issue.

The latest house given up by the Dharmasala MLA is located at Radhakrishna Enclave in Unit-VI. The CAG, in its report, mentioned that the MLA had got two houses from the development authority when his father was a minister in the Naveen Patnaik government. Das’ wife, too, had got a plot in her name. This is likely to intensify the furore over the allotment of more than one house or plots to people with political clout.

The surrender coincided with an attack on the state government on the issue of discretionary quota allotments by senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra, who demanded a CBI inquiry into the “muddle”.

Accusing chief minister Naveen Patnaik of deliberately sitting over the matter, he alleged that the state government failed to formulate a clear-cut policy about house allotments despite an Orissa High Court order in this regard in 2002.

The issue of influential people managing to get more than one house in Bhubaneswar using their clout was brought into focus by a report in The Telegraph titled “Houses too many for comfort” on July 23. The report had quoted accountant general’s letter to the state government on the issue extensively.

Pointing out the high court order for framing a policy for house allotment under discretionary quota, Mohapatra alleged that nothing moved on this front as the files continued to gather dust on the third floor of the secretariat where the chief minister’s office was located. Though in 2010 a committee, headed by the chief minister, was formed to formulate a policy, the guidelines are yet to be framed. “So the chief minister, himself, is responsible for illegal allotments,” said Mohapatra.

The leader also said the accountant general, Odisha, in January 2013 had written to the state government about non-implementation of the high court order about one person not being allotted more than one house under the government housing schemes. The AG underscored the fact that the directive had been violated in as many as 20 cases.

“The chief minister must explain why no action was taken against the violators,” said Mohapatra, alleging that the return of houses and plots by people, who had been allotted more than one, was nothing but drama and criminal action should be initiated against them.

Senior BJD leader and excise minister Damodar Rout came up with a strong rebuttal on Mohapatra charges, saying that the BJP was running a coalition government in the state with the BJD till 2009, and for this entire period, both housing and revenue departments were with the BJP ministers. “If there have been any irregularities, then it is they who owe an explanation to the people,” said Rout.

Industries minister Debi Prasad Mishra, too, came out with all guns blazing against Mohapatra. Asserting that discretionary quota had been there for a long time, he dismissed the demand for a CBI inquiry.

“Such an inquiry is irrelevant since discretionary quota has been abolished by our government since 2011. The allegations of the Opposition are an attempt to malign the Naveen Patnaik government, but it would not succeed,” he said.