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NEW DELHI: If the Bharatiya Janata Party was divided on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute during a Lok Sabha discussion on Friday, two UPA Ministers found themselves at the receiving end on two other issues. The demand by Chandrakant Khaire (Shiv Sena), during zero hour, that areas including Belgaum, Karvar, Nipani and 865 villages of Karnataka be merged with Maharashtra, alleging that the Marathi-speaking population was being subjected to “injustice” there, just about split the BJP members from the two States — one section supporting him and the other opposing his plea.
Both sections entered the well but without rancour and Mr. Khaire, in particular, sought to assuage the feelings of those opposed to his demand by allowing them to articulate their stand as well.
The BJP's Anant Kumar, hailing from Karnataka, challenged his contention and declared that Belgaum was an integral part of Karnataka and that there was no border dispute. He insisted that the Mahajan Commission recommendations be implemented.
On the other hand, BJP deputy leader Gopinath Munde, standing next to Mr. Kumar, made his point matter-of-factly, without offending his colleagues who agreed with Mr. Khaire's point that “injustice” was being meted out to linguistic minorities in Karnataka. Supplementary questions
Earlier, Tribal Affairs Minister Kantilal Bhuria and Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath found themselves at the receiving end in the wake of a barrage of supplementary questions, the replies to which only caused exasperation among the members, including those on the Congress benches.
Repeated questions by members whether displaced tribals were leading a better life after resettlement evoked no positive answer from Mr. Bhuria. All that he said was money was given as per the demands made by the State governments. That triggered shouts of “shame, shame”.
Mr. Bhuria said 2.15 lakh tribals had been displaced and assured the members that the government was formulating a national policy, which, after Cabinet approval, would be implemented to better the lot of tribals.
Nor did Ms. Tirath's reply on the issue of rotten food being served to children under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) satisfy members. Even Congress members endorsed the allegation which questioned the Minister's claim that she had received only eight complaints during the past three years.
There was another round of booing, with members expressing their disbelief. They alleged that each panchayat must be reporting at least eight cases of substandard food being served to children.
Ms. Tirath put the blame on the State governments, saying it was their duty to monitor food supply and if members were dissatisfied, such cases could be enquired into and action taken. She was silent on the demand for raising the monthly honorarium for anganwadi workers from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 5,000.
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