Strike enters Day 3, Nuapada too joins

The third day of agitation by the lawyers of Sambalpur Bar Association saw students of GM College boycott classes and close down the college over the High Court bench demand.

They staged demonstration outside the college shouting slogans against the State Government. Offices and courts remained closed while relay hunger strike launched by the lawyers with support from different political parties continued. Similar reports were received from Deogarh, Jharsuguda and Bargarh.

At Nuapada, lawyers on Thursday decided to join the agitation of the HC bench. The decision was taken at a meeting held here. It was attended by Nuapada BJD MLA Rajendra Dholokia, BJD district president Prasanna Padhi, District Congress Committee president Saroj Sahu and district BJP president Ashok Mitra, besides members of the Bar Association. It was also decided that all State Government offices and courts will be closed from Friday.

It meeting decided to lock up offices of Khariar NAC and Khariar Road NAC to prevent filing of nomination for ULB polls. The political parties agreed to withdraw nominations if those were filed till date.

Men call shots in women wards of Sambalpur

The State Government’s bid to empower women by involving them in decision making process of governance seems to have been derailed in Sambalpur district.

After the Government reserved 50 per cent of seats in rural as well as urban local bodies, women have come forward to file nominations. But it is their male relatives who are calling the shots in the entire election process.

Starting from availing tickets to campaigning and other election activities, either the husbands or other male relatives of the contestants are managing things making voters wonder who is the actual candidate. In Ward numbers 2, 4, 20, 22, 24, 26 and 27 of Sambalpur municipality, husbands of the women councillors act on their behalf. After the election, people rarely see the women councillors in any public platform. They remain present only at municipal council meetings to put their signatures.

Sources said in most cases, the male dominance starts from the process of selection of candidates. The husbands or sons of women candidates lobby for tickets. In many cases, there is hardly any interaction between women candidates and party leaders.

Officially, Ward no 2 is represented by Rashmita Acharya, Ward 4 by Ditptimayee Barik, Ward 20 by Anita Meher, Ward 22 by Shakuntala Satnami, Ward 22 by Lakshmi Bhoi, Ward 26 by Nitu Sahu and Ward 27 by Suryakanti Nayak. But these councillors are hardly found in the Municipality office or in their wards. While Rashmita, Diptimayee, Lakshmi, Nitu and Suryakanti are represented by their husbands Jaga Acharya, Suryanarayan Barik, Dilip Bhoi, Santosh Sahu and Umesh Nayak respectively, two other Councillors Anita and Shakuntala are represented by their brothers-in-law Chandra Meher and Banmali Satnami respectively.

This time, Wards 1, 3, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 22 of the total 29 Wards in the municipality are reserved for general caste women, Wards 2, 5, 13, 14 for backward class women, Wards 17 and 26 for SC women while Wards 27 and 29 are reserved for ST women.

23 arrested for fraud

Police have arrested 23 persons of a racket involved in embezzling `48 lakh from Indian Bank branch  by submitting fake documents, was busted by Bargarh Town police on Tuesday morning.

One Atmaram Panda of Dhanger village under Bargarh Sadar police limits, who is suspected to be the brain behind the fraud, managed to get an anticipatory bail from the Orissa High Court. He has currently, fled from the village. Involvement of bank officials in the fraud has not been ruled out. Police said bank officials are being quizzed and more arrests in the case are likely.

According to the preliminary investigation, 23 persons of the district had submitted forged documents and availed agriculture loans. Panda had helped them in preparing the fake documents and with the help of some officials of Indian Bank, got their loans sanctioned.

All the arrested persons hail from villages in Dhanger, Jamuda and Tora areas of the district. They had mentioned their wrong addresses in the documents submitted to the bank.

Six Western Odisha districts to shut down from today

Lawyers in six districts of western Odisha will close down the Government offices and courts during the monsoon session of the State Assembly beginning Tuesday.

Under the aegis of All Western Odisha Bar Association (AWOBA), the agitation is being held to mark their protest against silence of the State Government on establishment of a permanent High Court bench in the region. In fact, the Central Action Committee (CAC) of AWOBA has been spearheading the agitation over the demand.

According to reports received from various districts till Monday evening, Government offices and courts will remain closed in Sambalpur, Deogarh, Sundargarh, Sonepur, Jharsuguda and Bargarh. Meetings in other districts over the issue were continuing till the report was filed. The agitation will conclude on August 28.

Earlier, the CAC had issued an ultimatum to the State Government to recommend to the Union Government on setting up the High Court bench by August 15. With State Government remaining silent on the issue, the CAC decided to go ahead with its agitation plan.

The agitation apart, political parties from almost all the districts of the region have extended their support to bar associations on the issue. At a meeting held here on Saturday, the political parties in Sambalpur district led by their presidents accepted the proposal of the CAC to abstain from the urban local body (ULB) election. The parties in Jharsuguda, Deogarh and Bargarh have also decided to boycott the ULB polls.

Members of Bargarh Bar Association who convened a meeting with political parties on Monday evening, adopted a resolution to boycott the ULB polls. At Deogarh, while BJD leaders were absent, BJP leader Subhas Panigrahi and Congress leader Dharmendra Debta also agreed to boycott the polls.

On the other hand, an all-party meeting convened by the Sundargarh District Bar Association urging political parties to boycott the ULB election was not accepted by the latter who sought more time to consult senior leaders. Local BJD and BJP leaders said they need time to take a decision, while their Congress counterparts said they would accept the decision the two parties take.

Congress hits out at government for delaying HC bench

The Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) has criticised the State Government for the delay in recommending to the Centre for setting up a permanent bench of the High Court in western Odisha districts.

Even though the people of western Odisha are resorting to different types of agitation during the last several years and courts are paralysed every month for three to four days on the issue, the State Government remains a mute spectator, former minister and media cell chairman of the OPCC Narsingh Mishra said. Mishra said the OPCC had submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Congress Bhavan here in January, 2012 demanding a permanent bench of the High Court in western Odisha.

The Prime Minister had said let the State Government recommend it to the Centre. The then Union Law Minister V Moily had also assured that the Centre will take steps in this regard after the State Government made a recommendation. The Congress media cell chairman said the people of Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts have decided to boycott the urban local body (ULB) polls after they found that boycott of courts and ceasework movements did not yield any result.

Mishra said the poll boycott decision taken in Sambalpur and Jharsuguda districts has the support of the local units of all the political parties. He warned that this may spread to other districts also. However, major political parties are yet to announce their stand on the poll boycott.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kalpataru Das, a member of the committee constituted by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to manage the ULB polls, is camping at Jharsuguda for selection of candidates. OPCC president Jaydev Jena also criticised the Government for dilly-dallying the issue and said the Congress cannot go against the demand of the local people.