Tag Archives: koraput News

Congress and BJD fan pet issues

Stepping up its attack on the BJD, a poll-bound Congress today organised three rallies in the undivided Koraput district, an old party bastion with a sizeable chunk of tribal population.

Addressing big gatherings at Malkangiri and Jeypore, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena and All-India Congress Committee-appointed in-charge of state party affairs B.K. Hariprasad, lashed out at the Naveen Patnaik government for trying to usurp central schemes such as cheap rice while failing to develop the state, which was labelled as the poorest in the country by the Raghuram Rajan committee.

“He has been making allegations against the Centre accusing it of neglecting Odisha. The truth is that he has failed miserably to make use of central schemes while trying to take undue credit for some of them such as subsidised rice,” said Hariprasad, addressing the rally at Malkangiri where the party has taken up the cause of tribals being branded as Maoists by the police.

“Not only are the tribal people suffering under this regime, the farmers, too, are committing suicide. The Centre, on the other hand, has been extremely generous to the state giving it a central university at Koraput and setting up the state-of-the-art Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Bhubaneswar,” said Hariprasad.

The tone and tenor of the Congress leaders did not change at Rayagada where Jena tore into Naveen accusing him of depriving the poor tribal people of their full quota of the subsidised rice allotted by the Centre. The party MLA from Bisam Cuttack, Dambrudhar Ulaka, trotted out figures to substantiate the charge made by his party chief.

The meeting at Rayagada, however, was marred by the heckling of Hema Gamang, wife of former chief minister, Giridhar Gamang and an aspirant for the party ticket from Gunpur Assembly constituency, by the supporters of Ramanaguda block chairman Purushottam Gamang.

With the disturbance exposing the growing factionalism within the party, Jena warned the hecklers against breaking discipline. “We are not going to tolerate such behaviour,” he said.

The other embarrassment for the party, of late, has been the queer behaviour of veteran Bhupinder Singh, who has made himself incommunicado amidst speculation that he might quit and join the BJD. Both Jena and Hariprasad refused to comment on speculations with regard to Bhupinder’s future saying the leader of Opposition was unwell and unreachable at the moment.

In yet another development, Arya Gyanendra, an All-India Congress Committee member and a known opponent of Jena, lashed out at the state party leadership for ignoring sincere leaders while selecting candidates for Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections. He said he would stay away from party programmes for a year as a mark of protest.

The party, on the other hand, sought to extract the maximum political mileage out of its Malkangiri rally accusing the district police of preventing supporters from reaching the meeting venue. It has called a shutdown in the district tomorrow to protest alleged police atrocities against its supporters today.

The Congress is keen to retain its hold on undivided Koraput district where it has four sitting MLAs and a Lok Sabha MP, who is its trump card as far as mobilising tribal support is concerned. Sources said Nabarangpur MP Pradeep Majhi, a livewire, has been trying all the tricks in the bag to win over the tribals of the area who appear to be upset with the police for engaging in a witch-hunt against them.

The BJD hit back at the Congress with a sit-in before the Raj Bhavan here today to ramp up its protest against the Centre’s continued refusal to grant Odisha the special category state status while according the same to the yet-to-be-born, Seemandhra.

The ruling party, which is organising a state-wide agitation on the issue, has planned a major show of strength with three rallies at Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Sambalpur on March 5, the birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik, which is celebrated as ‘panchayati raj divas’.

‘Maoist’ threat in parcel

The Koraput sub-divisional judicial magistrate (SDJM) on Tuesday received a parcel through speed post, which contained a Maoist letter written in Odia, two bullets and a detonator.

The letter accused SDJM Debasish Panda of harassing people by rejecting their bail pleas. “Leave the place immediately or you will be punished at the Praja Court,” the hand-written letter said. The sender identified himself as D Kameswar Rao, a resident of Raniguda Farm in Rayagada town. It was booked from the post office of Rail Mail Service (RMS) in the town.

Police, however, suspected it could be the handiwork of some prankster who wanted to create panic. The two bullets were dead and the detonator was an old rusty one, they said.

“A case has been registered and investigation is on,” Koraput SP Awinash Kumar said.

“We have sought the help of Rayagada police to verify the sender’s address. Everything will be clear once we complete our investigation,” he added.

Meanwhile, postal officials in the district said it was impossible to verify the content of parcels as they had no scanning gadgets. “We can’t always ask a customer to divulge what is inside the parcel. It is also very easy to write down a fake address. We have no mechanism to verify them,” assistant superintendent of posts (Jeypore division) B C Padhi said.

On January 13, 2012, state election commissioner Ajit Tripathy had received a parcel with a fuse. Barely seven days after that, the chief secretary’s office got a parcel with detonators.

Naveen Patnaik asks home secretary, DGP to rush to Maoist-hit Koraput

Naveen Patnaik asked the home secretary and director general of police (DGP) to rush to Koraput district and take stock of the situation in the southern region of the state.

Patnaik issued this direction while presiding over a high level review meeting on Tuesday’s landmine blast where at least four BSF jawans were killed and three others sustained injuries.

“The Chief Minister asked the two senior officials to go to Koraput and report him about the prevailing situation in there,” a senior official said.

Besides, home secretary Vipin Kumar Saxena and DGP Prakash Mishra, the director of intelligence and inspector general (operation) attended the meeting.

They have already visited the blast spot at Raleguda under Pottangi police station where a vehicle carrying BSF jawans was ambushed by the Maoists, the official said.

While asking the state police to gear up combing operation in affected areas of Koraput district, sources said, Patnaik also directed senior officials to have better coordination with paramilitary forces.

At least five battalions of BSF jawans have been deployed in Odisha’s Maoist-hit Koraput and Malkangiri districts.

Besides BSF, Central Reserve Police Force ( CRPF) jawans and Odisha’s elite anti-naxal Special Operation Group (SOG) force have been deployed in anti-Maoist operation in the state.

Naxals attack BSF convoy in Koraput, 4 personnel dead

Attacked Army Truk A group of heavily armed Naxals attacked a Border Security Force (BSF) convoy in Koraput district of Odisha killing four personnel and injuring three others.

The BSF personnel were killed when their van was blown up by the Naxals. The three personnel have been injured seriously and they have been taken to the hospital.

A convoy of 18 BSF personnel was on its way to Vishakapatanam from the base camp in Malkangiri district in Odisha on Tuesday morning when Naxals triggered a land mine blast near Patnagi in Koraput district.

Cross firing between the BSF troopers and the Naxals took place for almost an hour before reinforcement reached the spot. Massive combing operation is going on in the highly Naxal-infested belt of Odisha.

Three days back the top regional Naxal leader Madhav was killed in a police encounter and four of his supporters surrendered. Top police sources say that this attack is a mark of desperation by the Naxals who want to prove their presence in the region after immense pressure on them by the Oidsha police and paramilitary forces for past several months

2 lakh Odisha workers suffer in hellish Andhra kilns

They are loaded onto trains like goats, wide-eyed and scared. Few know where they are being herded to or where the trains – the Korba-VSKP Link Express and the Durg-VSKP Passenger – are going. They are pushed into unreserved compartments, one stacked above the other like sacks of rice. Some die without food or water; others from sheer heat. But no one cares. It’s modern-day slavery at its worst.

Every year in November, brick kiln workers with hunger gnawing inside them migrate from Odisha to Andhra Pradesh to escape abject poverty. This ‘distress migration’, which happens during the lean agricultural months, soon descends to a hellish existence as these workers have 18-hour work days, regular assaults and inhuman beatings.

“Some seem to have lost their minds in the process,” says Subhadeep Kumar, a University of Hyderabad (UoH) student. “I don’t think they were that way when they were recruited.” Odisha workers suffer in hellish Andhra kilns

Sudhir Katiyar, project director of Prayas Centre for Labor Research and Action (PCLRA), says, “There are at least 2,00,000 Odisha brick kiln workers in Andhra. They are a perfect example of slavery in modern times.”

These workers migrate from Balangir, Koraput, Kalahandi, Kandhamal and Bargarh districts of west Odisha. “Government schemes are not implemented properly here,” says Trilochan Punji, president of Zindabad Sangathan which led to the formation of a union in Balangir. “NREGS mein ghotala hai (It’s a scam). They don’t get paid for any work.”

The state administration, meanwhile, has turned a blind eye to this migration. “We approached the Balangir district labour officer, but he did not respond,” says Punji. “Why should he? The sardars are getting these people work outside the state, so the administration doesn’t need to worry about their employment.”

They are then sent to kilns in Ranga Reddy, Medak and Nalgonda districts of Andhra where they work for a pittance. According to the Minimum Wages Act, a pair of workers should be paid Rs 367 for making 1,000 bricks. But in reality, a family (3-4 members) is paid just Rs 150-200.

Things got so bad last March that there was an uprising of workers in Dundigal village in Ranga Reddy district demanding just payment. The police detained the organizers and then allowed the employers a free run to flex their muscles, says Katiyar. “We have filed six group cases for payment of minimum wages and there has been absolutely no action by the labour department,” says Katiyar. When Kantabanji superintendent of police Avinash Kumar caught some brick kiln owners last year, he was transferred within a fortnight.

If these workers try to walk out, they are threatened with physical assault or beaten up. Goons follow them wherever they go. With no spare cash, fleeing at night is also impossible. Children too aren’t spared. They are made to flip bricks while they’re drying because the heavier palms of adults may lead to cracks.

When the Human Rights Forum approached authorities to do something, they were asked why the labourers can’t just leave, says P Madhavi, Hyderabad committee convenor of the organization. “But where will they go? They have nothing to go back home to. The solution is to protect their rights.” Meanwhile, a committee comprising the Indian Federation of Trade Unions, HRF, Action Aid and UoH has been formed to see that the voices of these exploited workers are heard.