Lawyers Call for Western Odisha Bandh Today

The Central Action Committee (CAC) of All Western Odisha Bar Association (AWOBA) has decided to go ahead with their Western Odisha bandh call on Wednesday with the State Government remaining silent over their demand.

They have been demanding a complete and comprehensive proposal to the Central Government over setting up of High Court Bench in the region by February 18.

CAC secretary Niranjan Tripathy said the State Government has not yet acted on the demand. “As we had given an ultimatum, we will go ahead with the bandh call,” he said.

Essential services will not be hampered though. Similarly, students will be allowed to reach their schools and colleges to appear for examinations and marriage ceremonies allowed to be solemnised.

The Sambalpur District Bar Association (SDBA) has also urged all political  parties to join the bandh call.

Proposed Handloom Park Yet to See Light of Day

The State Government’s ambitious Sambalpuri Ikat Handloom Park project in Bargarh district has remained confined to the pen and paper for over three years now.

In 2011, the Government had decided to set up the Park at Katapali village under Barpali block which would be the second handloom park in the country and in Asia, the first one being at Kochampalli near Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

second-handloom-park-bargarhIn the wake of decreasing number of skilled weavers, the handloom park was aimed at teaching weaving to people of non-weaver community. Besides training the weavers on tie and dye processing, production and finishing of the products, the captive looms in the project will help them produce textiles as per market demands.

Sources said as of now, the detailed project report has not been finalised. The park, coming up in public-private partnership (PPP) mode, has acquired over 10 acres of land against a requirement of 25 acres.

The park will have 500 to 1,000 looms and employ 3,000 workers. So far, it has been registered as a society with 100 members including 45 national awardees and 55 master weavers.

While the society is required to arrange land on its own, the Centre and State Government will share other components of the `70-crore project. An inter-governmental panel had been constituted to work on the details of the project.

Official sources in the Handloom, Textiles and Handicrafts Department said the society members had submitted the draft of the final detailed project report last year and the authorities concerned had asked for certain changes which are yet to be made. “Besides, some portion of 10 acres that had been acquired for the project are disputed. It belongs to the tribals and hence, cannot be transferred. But we are trying to put the project on the fast track and it would be commissioned soon,” said a higher official of the department.

According to the Handloom Census 2009 of the Government of India, Bargarh has the biggest handloom cluster in the State. There are 35,000 weavers and allied textile workers and 12,500 looms in the district. Bargarh handloom cluster sprawls across Bargarh, Barpali, Bheden, Bhatli, Attabira, Bijepur, Padampur and Sohela blocks.

Boat Owner, One More Boatman Held

One more boatman and owner of the boat which capsized in the Hirakud dam reservoir claiming 31 lives, were arrested by Sambalpur police on Saturday.

Police had been on the lookout for the two ever since the incident took place on February 9. The boat owner was identified as Satyanand Pandey of Jagannath Mandir Colony in Sambalpur town and the boatman Anjan Parua belongs to Sianpali village under Banharpali police limits in Jharsuguda district. They were forwarded to court.

Pandey said he had requisite permission from Inland Water Transport (IWT) under Directorate of Ports and Inland Water Transport, Chandbali, by virtue of which he was operating boat service.  However, he said the Dhankauda panchayat samiti had not auctioned the Sonutikra ghat where people boarded and landed and was sure to bag the auction as he has been operating the service since last 11 years.

He revealed that majority of the men who were on board the boat were drunk and did not pay heed to the request of the boatmen and crowded the boat.

He said while they were ferried in groups while going on onward journey, all boarded the boat at a single go on their return journey.

The capacity of the boat was to ferry 100 persons, but more than 140 boarded forcibly.

Moreover, they panicked and rushed to one side of the boat on seeing the rescue boat approach which resulted in the large number of casualty. Similarly, boatman Anjan Parua said they requested the picnickers not to board the boat together and assured that they would be ferried in groups. “But they intimidated and threatened us,” he added.

Earlier on Wednesday, boatman Akshya Rana of Sonutikra village under Sason police limits of the district was arrested near Sambalpur on the charges of rash navigation of the vessel.

BDO Issued Notice on Illegal Boat Service in Hirakud

Sambalpur Sadar Sub-Collector Surendra Panda has issued a show cause notice to Dhankauda BDO Ashok Kumar Gartia over illegal operation of boats from Sonutikra ferry ghat along left dyke of Hirakud dam. The ghat was not put to auction last year.

Members of Lions Club of Sambalpur had boarded the ill-fated boat at the Sonutikra ghat and the mishap occurred while they were returning from the picnic site on the other side of the Hirakud dam reservoir on Sunday.

Sadar Sub-Collector Surendra Panda said ferry ghats should be auctioned every year. However, Sonutikra ghat was not auctioned for the last one year, which is a violation of Odisha Gram Panchayat Rules, 1968, and a show cause notice has been issued to Dhankauda BDO in this regard.

The Sub-Collector has asked the BDO to submit his explanation over the matter within seven days of receipt of the notice. As per reports, Sonutikra ghat is managed by Dhankauda Panchayat Samiti in Sambalpur district and an agreement is signed with the person, who qualifies the bid in the auction, regarding the rules and regulation of the ferry service.

The timing, condition of the boat and some other terms related to security of the passengers are mentioned in the agreement. However, the boats were ferrying from the ghat without taking any permission.

On Wednesday, police arrested one of the two boatmen Akshay Rana on the charges of rash navigation of the vessel and launched a manhunt to nab the owner of the boat Satyanand Pandey and another boatman Anjan Parua who are still at large.

Meanwhile, some of the passengers who managed to escape in the incident appreciated the role of both Akshay and Anjan and said they were innocent.

Eyewitnesses Soumya Ranjan Pradhan and his friends Manmath Kumar and Paban Khamari of Sakhipada area in Sambalpur town said the boat was filled to capacity and the boatmen had suggested the picnickers not to board the boat but they paid no heed. Soumya and his two friends are not the members of the Lions club, but had gone to the other side of the Hirakud reservoir and were returning to Sambalpur in the same boat. They said the boatmen jumped into the water in the middle of the reservoir to rescue the passengers and saved many lives.

Meanwhile, locals, ODRAF members and convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) Ranjan Panda have demanded release of the arrested boatman and action against the culprits based on the inquiries that have been ordered.Panda also welcomed Odisha High Court’s suo motu cognizance of the matter seeking status reports from Government departments concerned within two weeks.

Boy robs own house

A boy allegedly robbed his house at Haragouripada in Sambalpur and concocted a loot story. The Class X student was arrested, along with a friend, on Friday.

Sources said the student told police that three masked miscreants tied him up and looted Rs 2 lakh and gold ornaments on Monday. His parents were away to visit a relative, who had died in Hirakud boat tragedy. “His father lodged a complaint on Monday evening,” said IIC, Ainthapali PS Amitav Panda. Since the alleged loot took place in daylight, cops smelt fishy. “He broke down during interrogation and confessed to have plotted the crime with a friend,” Panda said.