Denouncing the Narendra Modi-led central government as anti-SC/ST, ruling BJD legislators disrupted the state assembly session on Monday and staged a protest near the Gandhi statue on the assembly premises.

Displaying a letter written by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on 17 November to Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Jhaawar Chand Gehlot, the BJD said the Centre was targeting the SC/ST community in several ways, including changing the funding pattern of post-Matric scholarship for ST/SC students and putting 80 per cent of the burden on the state.

Inside the Assembly, the ruling BJD MLAs stood up raising slogans as soon as the day’s session commenced.

Opposition Congress and BJP members too created a ruckus-raising a newspaper report on CBI officers entering the state secretariat and the illegal tree felling for a beer factory in Dhenkanal.

Amid the pandemonium, Speaker Pradip Amat adjourned the house till 3 pm. On resumption, the House saw two more adjournments before the Speaker called it a day.

Talking to mediapersons, Leader of the Opposition Narasingha Mishra alleged that the ruling BJD disrupted the House to avoid discussions on illegal tree felling for a beer factory in Dhenkanal district. “We had given a notice for adjournment on the matter and the Speaker had admitted it,” he said.

Referring to the other issue of CBI entering the state secretariat recently, as published in an Odia newspaper, Mishra said the CM owed an answer as to whether the CBI had been to the secretariat and if so why.

BJP MLA Pradip Purohit also pointed out that the BJD members had fished out a letter dated 17 November and raised it today only to divert attention from the illegal tree felling issue.

In his letter to Union Minister JC Gehlot, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik objected to the abrupt change in the funding pattern under Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme for Scheduled Caste students.

Approximately 2 lakh SC students are provided post-Matric scholarships for higher education in Odisha.

It’s is a Centrally sponsored scheme, wherein the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment was until 2016-17 providing about 90 per cent of the actual expenditure while the state government was bearing the remaining 10 per cent.

Accordingly, during 2016-17, the Central share was Rs 215.80 crore, while the state share was Rs 22.48 crore.

“It is a matter of great concern that from 2017-18 onwards, the Ministry has revised the liability of the State Government towards post matric scholarship, wherein the State Government has to bear more than 80 per cent of the total expenditure. During 2017-18, the State Government had .to provide Rs. 238.28 Crore, while the Ministry allocated a meagre Rs 35.12 Crore. During 2018- 19, the State Government has to provide Rs.238.28 Crore, while Government of India share is projected to be Rs.49.39 Crore. Such an abrupt change in the funding pattern by the Ministry has given a severe jolt to the post-matric scholarship programme for Scheduled Caste students,” stated the CM.

He requested for restoration of the 90:10 funding pattern.