Lawyers’ stir may hit salary disbursement

The lawyers’ strike has put a big question mark on the state government employees getting salary before Nuakhai that will be celebrated on September 10. All government offices in Sambalpur, including that of the RDC and district collector, municipality and other revenue offices and courts are shut since August 20.

“We understand the plight of government employees. But we are left with no option as our agitation has now become a people’s movement. So we appeal to them to cooperate us by extending their whole-hearted support,” said secretary of Sambalpur Bar Association Siddharth Sahu.

He said though the Central Action Committee (CAC) of Western Odisha bar associations decided at its Jharsuguda meeting on Thursday to relax the agitation from September 1 to September 15 in view of Ganesh Puja and Nuakhai, the Sambalpur bar has decided to intensify its agitation by closing down the offices without any break. “Banks and central government offices will be allowed to operate,” Sahu said.

On Saturday, lawyers staged a road blockade from 9 am to 1 pm at Ainthapali on NH 6, Bhalupali on Jharsuguda express highway and Sindurpank chowk on NH 54. “It passed off peacefully,” said SDPO (Sambalpur) P K Mohapatra.

Another accident in midday meal; boy critical

No lessons have been learnt from the death of the Class III girl who succumbed to burn injures after falling into hot dal in her school in Sambalpur district on last Saturday. Within days of the tragic incident, a Class II boy sustained severe burn injuries after falling into boiling rice cooked for midday meal (MDM) in Balangir on Thursday afternoon.

The incident happened at Sihini High School near Titilagarh around 2 pm when the students were playing on the school premises. The boy, identified as Rahul Chhattar, was first taken to Titilagarh sub-divisional hospital with 40% burn injuries. He was later shifted to Balangir district headquarters hospital as his condition worsened.

Titilagarh block development officer (BDO) Md Ishaq said the condition of the boy was critical. “We are bearing all his medical expenses. At the time of incident, the headmaster of the school was absent. Disciplinary action will be initiated against him if he is found guilty of neglecting his duties. The school does not have a proper kitchen. Midday meal is cooked at a make-shift shed,” the BDO added.

Recently, school and mass education minister Rabi Narayan Nanda told the assembly that over 10,930 schools didn’t have kitchen sheds to cook MDM. “The incident is unfortunate. Whosoever is guilty will be taken to task,” the minister said on Thursday.

Titilagarh Congress legislator Surendra Singhbhoi blamed the state government for “failing to monitor the implementation of the midday meal scheme properly.”

Earler this week, Class III student Banita Kanhar of a tribal residential school at Girischandrapur in Sambalpur died of burn injuries after she had fallen into a vessel of hot dal.

Flowers bloom in pollution belt

He proved the adage, nothing is impossible, by growing flowers over three acre when farmers of the district are shying away from cultivating their land with pollutants from industries, rendering them useless.

The thought of giving back to the nature prompted transport company owner Ajay Poddar to plant saplings in his farm, about two months ago. He pumped money into floriculture near Hirma, along the industrial belt. It is first of its kind in western Odisha and third in the state. He grows varieties of gerbera and roses there.

“It was possible because of the greenhouse, where flowers are grown in a controlled and pollution-free atmosphere,” said Poddar. To ensure adequate supply of water, automated drip irrigation system has been installed in the farm, he said.

He had hired two experts from Pune. They along with local labourers planted around 34,000 rose and 16,000 gerbera plants. About 1,600 to 1,800 flowers are plucked daily and supplied to Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, along with the local markets. “We plan to sell the produce in Raipur and Bilaspur markets, where these are in great demand during the marriage season,” Poddar said.

“Earlier, we used to procure roses from Kolkata. Customers often avoided buying the stale flowers. With the availability of fresh flowers, our sale has also increased,” said Gopal Samanta, a flower vendor.

ULBs poll differed issue: Odisha Govt to appoint administrators in nine western Odisha districts

The 25 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the nine western Odisha districts are all set to get Administrators for executing the day-to-day administration as the terms of office of the ULB councils would expire on September 19 next without any elected bodies.

“Since in the absence of any elected councils after the expiry of the five-year terms on September 19, the State Election Commission (SEC) will recommend to the State Government under the Article 243 ZA of the Constitution of India and Odisha Municipal Act, 1950 to post Administrators to manage the affairs in these ULBs where the election process was affected due to law and order situation,” said State Election Commissioner Ajit Kumar Tripathy on Friday.

The election process in the 25 ULBs was stopped due to a bandh called by the Central Action Committee of lawyers of nine western Odisha districts and supported by all political parties on the demand for establishment of a permanent High Court Bench in the region.

Meanwhile, the SEC has postponed the elections to the 25 ULBs in the nine districts Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Jharsuguda, Deograh, Baragrah, Balangir, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Sundargarah on the reports from concerned District Magistrates. The SEC on Friday also withdrew the operation of the Model Code of Conduct enforced in the 25 ULBs.

Congress spokesperson Narasingha Mishra said the Government has failed to act under the Constitution to hold the election to the 25 ULBs, for which there is a Constitutional breakdown. BJP leader Biswa Bhushan Harichandan alleged that such an incompetent Government was never seen in the State. Health Minister Damodar Rout questioned the lawyers’ movement to stop the ULB elections in western Odisha. “Is the movement Constitutional, he asked.

According to SEC sources, as many as 36 of the total 3,492 candidates in the fray for the rest 66 ULBs spread over 20 districts going to polls on September 19 elected uncontested with a majority of them being ruling BJD candidates.

Stir over HC bench: 15-day relief for state government offices

The Central Action Committee (CAC) of All Western Odisha Bar Association (AWOBA) at a meeting on Thursday issued a fresh ultimatum to the State Government and resolved to continue the agitation demanding setting up of a High Court bench in the region.

In view of Nuakhai, the agrarian festival of Western Odisha, on September 10 and Ganesh Puja on September 9, the CAC has decided that Government offices including that of Revenue Divisional Commissioner (North) and Collectors besides courts will not be affected by their agitation for 15 days beginning from September.

However, the ongoing relay hunger strike in front of the office of the RDC and similar demonstrations in front of the Collectorates in district headquarters of the region will continue.

Convener of CAC Ashok Das said the AWOBA has issued a fresh ultimatum to the State Government till September 15 for disbanding the CR Pal Commission and recommending to the Union Government for setting up a bench in the region.

He added that if the State Government does not pay heed to their demands, AWOBA would intensify the agitation after September 15. “We will also continue to boycott the Urban Local Body (ULB) polls till the Government takes a decision on our demand,” he added.

Though the Chief Minister had invited CAC members to discuss the issue on August 24, the meeting failed to yield any result and the lawyers continued their agitation.