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.

Three new trains for Odisha

Three new trains were announced for Odisha in the interim railway budget presented in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. The budget is for four months of the 2014-15 financial year prepared in view of the approaching general elections.

The new trains to operate under East Coast Railway (ECoR) jurisdiction are Puri-Gandhidham weekly express, Gunupur-Visakhapatnam and Sambalpur-Bhawanipatna daily passenger. Rail passengers from Odisha would also benefit from two other trains – Kamakhya-Chennai and Howrah-Yesvantpur (both AC weekly) – that will pass through the state, ECoR sources said here.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik described the provisions made for the state in the interim budget as ‘disappointing’. He said the state government had sought Rs 4,000 crore allocated for various projects and 31 new trains. He said keeping in mind fund constraints faced by the railways, the state government had volunteered to finance 50% and provide land free for Khurda-Balangir rail line. The government had also committed 26% share capital for two other major projects Haridaspur-Paradip and Angul-Sukinda rail lines. But interim budget is silent on these projects. There is also no mention for construction of modern Bhubaneswar railway station, wagon factory in Ganjam district announced three years back and also the project at Kalahandi, the chief minister said. “The Central government has once again given step-motherly treatment to the state when Odisha is giving over Rs 14,000 crore revenue per annum to the railways,” the chief minister said.

Railways source here said the budget being interim in nature, decision on fund allocation for major projects would be taken at the time of presentation of full budget in Parliament by the new government after the elections.

Summary of Hirakud Incident


Death toll in Hirakud boat tragedy rises to 28

The death toll in the Hirakud Dam boat tragedy in Sambalpur district rose to 28 on Monday with the recovery of 17 more bodies, even as rescue operations continued for the second day to trace another five persons.

“Personnel of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire brigade fished out 11 bodies by the Sunday evening, while 17 more were recovered on Monday,” said Odisha special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra.

Besides expert scuba divers, personnel of ODRAF, fire brigade, police and local divers were also engaged in rescue and search operations in the vast reservoir as the place of accident was very deep.

The state government also pressed a helicopter in the search operation.

The state government has ordered an administrative inquiry by Sambalpur revenue divisional commissioner into the incident to probe if the boat had safety measures and license to operate.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who is in New Delhi, has asked revenue and disaster minister SDN Patro and finance minister Prasanna Acharya to rush to Sambalpur to oversee the rescue operations.

“Our first priority is to rescue the people and the entire government machinery has been working at that,” Patro said.

The state government has announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 1.5 lakh for the family members of the victims and free treatment for the survivors.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to the state, has put his scheduled meeting with party workers on hold and visited the spot to meet grieving families.

The issue was raised in the state assembly with leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh seeking a statement from the government.

The boat had capsized on Sunday with at least 100 people from the Lion’s Club of Sambalpur, Hirakud and Bargarh, who were returning from the other side of the Hirakud reservoir after a picnic.

The boat was flooded with water after developing a snag in its motor pump in the reservoir, about 340 km west of Bhubaneswar. Eyewitnesses said the passengers tried to drain the water from the boat but failed.

Some passengers jumped out of the boat and stay afloat till local fishermen rushed to save them. Women and children were the major casualty of the tragedy.