Odisha IFS officer held in US for allegedly assaulting hotel maid

A senior Indian Forest Service officer from Odisha, Surendra Prasad Mohapatra, has been arrested in the US for alleged wrongful confinement of a female employee of the hotel where he was staying, according to reports reaching the state on Thursday.

Mohapatra, the regional chief conservator of forests, Sambalpur, was on a mid-career training programme to Syracuse University, New York, along with batch of over 30 other officers. Reports said 52-year-old Mohapatra, a 1986 batch IFS officer, was having problems with the Internet connection in his hotel room and had sought help from the hotel staff. “My husband told me that the woman could not fix the problem and he told her something in an irritated manner. The woman apparently lodged a complaint and police have arrested him,” the officer’s wife Seema said.

Seema said she believed that the allegations against her husband were “false”. “My husband is short-tempered but is a strict officer. He would not misbehave or do anything wrong to anyone,” she added.

Course coordinator of the training programme Direndra Bharghava, who was staying on the same floor as Mohapatra, told a news channel that Mohapatra was an “old man” and a “thorough gentleman”.

Describing the development as “unfortunate”, forest minister D P Mishra said senior officers of his department were finding out details about the incident, which has taken the officialdom here by shock. “The Indian embassy in the US has been informed about the development. The Union ministry of environment and forests is also looking into the case,” principal chief conservator of forests P N Padhi said, adding, “We are unable to directly speak to Mohapatra due to restrictions put by Pennsylvania police.”

Sources said Mohapatra left for the US on July 7 for the training programme. “We feel police has falsely implicated him. There might be some serious misunderstanding,” maintained S C Khuntia, a forest officer. Another senior forest officer said Mohapatra told him over phone that he had not committed any wrong except asking the woman to fix the Internet problem.

“When she wanted to go out without fixing the problem, Mohapatra said he asked her to go only after rectifying the problem,” the officer said with requesting anonymity.

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