Bhubaneswar, Feb 1 (PTI)�Differences of opinion in theruling BJD came to the fore on the Rs 700 crore dal scam todayas several party MLAs held minister Pramila Mallik for theirregularities while two other ministers defended her.
Even as Orissa Chief minister Naveen Patnaik indicatedstrong action against those involved in the scam, at least twoministers today openly defended Mallik, the Women and ChildDevelopment (WCD) Minister.
WCD department was the nodal agency through which some9.5 million beneficiaries were covered under mid-day-meal(MDM) and supplementary nutrition programme (SNP).
State vigilance had detected prima facie evidence oflarge scale corruption in purchase of dal for MDM and SNP.
Several ruling party MLAs openly criticised thegovernment and held Mallik responsible for the irregularities.
"I had many times informed the government thatsub-standard dal was being served to children and women underMDM and SNP. But no action had been taken till vigilancedetected the fraud," said BJD MLA Nrushingha Sahu.
Sipra Mallik, a woman BJD legislator, said, "Themistake might have been committed by officers. But, theminister cannot shift her responsibility."
Finance Minister Prafulla Ghadai, however, defendedMallik. "I don''t understand how WCD minister is responsiblefor the scam while district collectors directly purchased dalfrom the market. She has no role in the allegedirregularities," Ghadai said.
Mallik, the only scheduled caste and womanRepresentative in Naveen''s cabinet, had been in charge of theWCD department ever since she joined in the ministry in 2004.
She got support from Agriculture Minister Damodar Routalso. "If there is any irregularity in MDM and nutritionscheme, collectors should be held responsible. The ministershould not be blamed for the fault of officers," he said.
Earlier the chief minister had said some steps hadbeen taken and further actions will be initiated after receiptof preliminary report from the vigilance department.
Patnaik''s hint at "further action" had apparentlysparked apprehension that Mallik might be dropped.
Besides opposition Congress and BJP, the BJD''selectoral ally NCP had also demanded action against theminister.