Bid to destroy evidence of land grab in Odisha foiled by villagers

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 21:

While the Odisha government feigns ignorance about the illegal possession of over 100 acres of village forest land by two senior BJD leaders in Ghangapatna mouza under Chandaka tehsil on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar and the construction of a 3-km stretch of road connecting this land, the villagers of the mouza have foiled an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Meanwhile, the villagers on Wednesday foiled the attempt to demolish the boundary wall built around the encroached patches of land as well as the road connecting these.

According to the people of Ghangapatna, a bulldozer arrived at the village on Wednesday evening to demolish the boundary wall and the road. However, the villagers, acting on the information, rushed to the spot.

Eyewitnesses said a vehicle of the Forest department arrived at the spot after some time. Later, two officials came out of the vehicle and had a discussion with the driver of the bulldozer.

After a while, both the department vehicle and the bulldozer disappeared from the spot, they said.

The villagers, apprehending that there may be attempts to destroy the evidence, kept watch over the place. That perhaps ensured no further attempt was made to bulldoze the compound wall and illegal road, a local villager said.

Though Rural Development minister Badri Narayan Patra, in a media briefing on Wednesday, had claimed that his department has not constructed the disputed road along the forest stretch of the mouza, he not reveal the name of the department that was ordered to construct the road.

Besides, Forest and Environment minister Bikram Keshari Arukh also managed to skip the query of the media persons on whether permission was sought from his department and why the department officials had kept mum when the construction of the road was underway.

When contacted, Ghangapatna ward member Dasarathi Behera said that there was a proposal from the block office for construction of the road which was vehemently opposed by the villagers.

“The government had agreed to conduct two Palli Sabhas in the panchayat to seek the consensus of the villagers for construction of the road. The villagers of the panchayat along with the panchayat secretary and sarpanch had waited for the Palli Sabhas but it was not held as none of the government officials turned up. We don’t know which department has constructed the road”, Behera added.

Sarpanch of Paikarapur panchayat Nabin Sethi said his panchayat had received a similar proposal from the block office. However, due to the protests by the villagers, the construction work could not take place.

“I have informed the decision to the block office on behalf of the panchayat”, he said, adding those who own land along this road, might have constructed it.

On the other hand, the Khordha district administration, which is aware of such illegal acts, has been asked to probe into the incident.

Sources said Khordha collector Niranjan Sahu has sought a report from the local tehsildar. The district administration would take necessary steps after submission of the report today.

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