I am a journalist, working as Balangir correspondent of the English daily "The Pioneer" and “The Industry and Mines Observer”, an English fortnightly magazine published from Bhubneshwar. I was awarded the Trophy for "Excellence in Journalism" by noted Columnist Sri Shivaji Sarkar,in the presence of Editor in Chief -of The Pioneer,Dr Chandan Mitra ,Editor of The Industry and Mines Observer (IMO) Sri Sirish Mohanty on June19,2012.
A day after resorting to a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ at village Khagasabahal protesting against the State Government’s alleged apathy towards the displaced villagers of the Lower Suktel Irrigation Project, the Balangir Action Committee on Tuesday called off the agitation following the district administration’s written assurance regarding fulfilment of its demands.
The Satyagraha was withdrawn after the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) gave a written promise to the committee on Monday night. However, the committee has warned that if its demands are not fulfilled, the agitation would be intensified in future.
Besides, the committee, headed by Goplaji Panigrahi also got an invitation for a talk with the Chief Secretary in Bhubaneswar on October 1.
Notably, the committee has demanded compensation to the displaced people as per the 2013 Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Policy and to expedite the project work.
The committee expressed its resentment over the tardy progress of the project work despite sanction of funds of Rs 217 crore in 1999, Rs 1042 crore in 2009 and Rs 2448 crore on August 30 2016.
Members of the Balangir Action Committee led by Gopalji Panigrahi have started a Jal Satyagraha at Khagsabahal village, 25 km from here, near the Suktel river.
They are demanding implementation of Land Acquisition Policy (LAP) 2013 for the Lower Suktel Irrigation Project and adequate compensation and proper rehabilitation of the displaced people.
“We have started an indefinite stir demanding implementation of LAP-2013 for the Lower Suktel Irrigation Project and proper rehabilitation of the displaced people,” said Panigrahi.
However, another group of villagers of Khuntpali-led by Upendra Sahu also stage a stir there demanding that compensation be first paid to the project oustees before any construction work started.
In 2012, we supported Balangir Action Committee agitation for the Lower Suktel project. However, we were let down by Gopalji Panigrahi and others. They have come to befool us by ignoring our genuine concerns, alleged the villagers of Khuntpali before Balangir Sub Collector Bimal Prasad Mohanty at the dharna site.
Notably, the Jal Satyagraha was the first of its kind stir started here pertaining to the Suktel project. Even, members of Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Paishad, another outfit which has spearheaded a 16-year long campaign, never undertook the Jal Satyagraha.
Meanwhile, Health, Fire and ODRAF teams, besides police were deployed to tackle the situation.
Members of the Odisha Ministerial Officers’ Association have threatened to sit on dharna before the State Assembly from September 26 to 28 demanding fulfilment of their three-point charter of demands.
The demands include increase in grade pay of Junior, Senior and Head Clerks and scrapping of contractual appointments. This was stated at a Press meet here by the association president on Friday.
Another major demand is abolition of the posts of Junior, Senior and Head Clerks by designating them as Junior Assistants, Senior Assistants and Section Officers, respectively.
Three years ago, the Government had published an advertisement for appointment to the posts and, accordingly, deserving candidates were appointed. However, a recent Government letter designated them as contractual employees, which was not mentioned earlier.
“We are going to stage a demonstration before the Assembly. If the Government does not fulfil our demands, we will resort to cease-work,” said association president Satrughna Panigrahi.
Generally, people resort to dharnas, demonstrations and road blockades to press for fulfilment of their demands. But Jal Satyagraha, a form of protest unheard of in Odisha, is going to be staged by Balangir people for the first time in the State.
Members of the Balangir Action Committee have threatened to stage a Jal Satyagraha for early completion of lower Suktel irrigation project and implementation of Land Acquisition Policy 2013.
Notably, a few years ago, activists of Narmada Bachao Andoloan had staged Jal Satyagraha protesting against the construction of dam over River Narmada.
“We are going to stage an indefinite Jal Satyagraha in river Suktel a Khagsabahal village from September 26,” said committee president Gopalji Panigrahi.
He demanded that Land Acquisition Policy 2013 be implemented for the lower Suktel irrigation project in true letter and spirit and displaced people rehabilitated properly. Besides, the project should be completed early, he told The Pioneer. He further informed that district Collector Ashis Thakare has been informed in this regard.
The unexpected attack on a DFO and a Ranger on September 7 has sent shock waves among the forest employees in the district here.
The report of paddy crop damage by elephants in village Banpali in Mukundpur panchayat of Deogaon block under Balangir forest range division has further added to their woes.
According to reports, around 10 elephants have damaged paddy field crop of farmers in village Banpali in last two days. “We believe these elephants have come from Boudh district by crossing the Tel river via Charbhata and Dangajore villages to Telapali and Banpali,” said a forest official.
In earlier years, elephants would usually come during the ripening of paddy crop. Even if the elephants came they would go away.
But in a new development, the elephants are causing havoc by damaging crop and targeting human beings. We have told villagers to apply for crop damage compensation in proper application form with required documents, added the forest official.
A few days ago villagers prone to damage caused by elephants demanded supply of torch lights and ghanta by the Forest department to them as a measure of driving away elephants.
In an unexpected development, a team of forest officials led by Balangir Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Rashmi Ranjan Nayak was attacked by miscreants and villagers while they were raiding an illegal saw mill at village Budula, 45 km from here in Agalpur block on Wednesday.
The DFO and Forest Range Officer D Meher, besides some other officials, were injured in the attack.
“Acting on a tipoff that an illegal saw mill is operating at Budula, we conducted the raid in the mill operated by one Dilip Biswal. Around 25 to 30 villagers armed with lathis and others attacked us,” said DFO Nayak to this correspondent.
The DFO and the Range Officer sustained injuries on their heads. They were rushed to the Loisinga hospital and then shifted to the Balangir District Headquarters Hospital. However, both are out of danger.
The forest officials seized the logs and the power tiller from the saw mill. A case was lodged against Dilip Biswal and other accused at the Loisinga police station. The case is under investigation. said Balangir SDPO Narayan Naik.
The newly sprouted paddy is on a hot sale across Balangir district headquarters town these days as Nuankhai draws near.
A major festival of western Odisha, Nuankhai symbolises the consumption of new paddy after offering it as bhog to the presiding deity at every household. The eating of newly sprouted paddy after offering to deity is known as ‘Nabarnna.’
Nuankhai is basically an agrarian festival. The farmers, who had sown paddy seed in the month of June, have already harvested the new crop. The paddy is offered to mother earth as a mark of gratitude.
A particular variety, ‘Sariaan’ which is a 75-day duration paddy crop grown on Att land, is offered as bhog. Almost 10 days prior to the festival, the people clean their houses. They purchase new items like new broom and other bamboo made baskets for use on the festival day.
Besides, all members put on new clothes and congregate at home. Even those who have to reside outside home for job return home for a family get-together. Several foods and sweetmeats are prepared.
After this, the Juhar Bhetghat (offering Namskar to seniors) is held which is a unique way to strengthen the brotherhood among all sections of people. As there are multiple caste systems, different caste people observe Nuankhai in different ways. But everyone stick to the basic character of the festival.
As an inflationary trend is on, the poor sections have to face a lot of hardship so far as the Nuankhai expenses are concerned. People would go for private borrowing and fall in the trap of the moneylenders.
Especially, the middlemen sending labourers to outside States to work in brick kilns would be active. They would give ‘bayana’ (advance money) to poor migrant labours for spending during the festival and later, would force them to migrate from home.