The populist programme aimed at providing meal at Rs five to the urban poor was launched by Chief minister Naveen Patnaik at the Capital Hospital here amid criticism by opposition parties which slammed the state government for asking corporate houses to fund the scheme.

Apart from Bhubaneswar, the scheme is also being launched simultaneously in Rourkela, Cuttack, Berhampur and Sambalpur in the first phase on the occasion of Utkala Dibasa, the foundation day of the state. Patnaik launched the scheme in Rourkela too.

The subsidised meals for people visiting urban areas for various work would be provided at four crowded places each in these five cities from 11 AM to 3 PM, to about 25,000 people per day to begin with.

The Aahar scheme is being sponsored by Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, Odisha Power Generation Corporation (OPGC) in Rourkela and Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) in Sambalpur. Tata Steel is supporting the scheme in Berhampur, official sources added.

However, Naveen Patnaik Government has come under severe attack from opposition parties including BJP for asking PSUs and other corporate houses to fund the populist scheme instead of making budgetary provision for the programme.

Senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra has said BJD leaders must realise that CSR activities of PSUs and other companies are not meant for charity but for undertaking sustainable development.

Maintaining that populist 'Aahar' scheme for providing meal at Rs 5 is meant for creating assets, the senior BJP leader said the state government should have made budgetary provisions for the programme instead of asking companies to fund the scheme.

Stating that there are clear guidelines for CSR activities, he said CSR funds should never be spent on populist programmes and propaganda.

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