Year Ender 2023: From Naba Das murder to Kishore Jena’s feat, 8 major events that grabbed eyeballs this year

Bhubaneswar: As we approach the culmination of another remarkable journey, it is the time to reflect on the myriad experiences, achievements, challenges and growth that have defined the past 12 months. One must revisit the chapters of his/her life, celebrating victories, learning from setbacks and embracing wisdom gained along the way. From triumphs to tribulations, laughter to lessons, the year ender stands as a testament to the resilience and evolution that shape our lives.

This year, the eastern state Odisha witnessed a series of happenings, tragedies, successes, political shocks and victories. Be it the assassination of Health Minister Naba Kishore Das or disastrous Bahanaga triple train accident in Balasore district or athlete Kishore Jena’s achievement making the country proud, the state hit the headlines in national media.

Here’s the list of major events extensively reported and discussed throughout the year.

Naba Das’ murder:

The year 2023 opened with untimely demise of Naba Das leading to massive political loss for people of Jharsuguda district in western region of Odisha. Naba Das, the former Health & Family Welfare Minister, was allegedly shot by an ASI-ranked police official during an event at Brajarajnagar on January 29 in Jharsuguda. According to reports, accused Gopal Das, who was assigned for clearing traffic at Gandhi Chowk in Brajrajnagar area during a programme to be attended by Naba Das, fired at the minister with his service gun from a short distance while the latter was stepping out of his car. The minister was declared dead at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar later in the evening. Police arrested the accused and case was handed over to Crime Branch to investigate the motive behind the murder.

Bahanaga train mishap:

June 2 could be inscribed as the deadliest event in a chapter of Railway history as the country lost hundreds of innocent lives, over a thousand of passengers were injured in a triple train collision near Bahanaga Railway Station in Odisha’s Balasore district. At least 288 passengers were killed on the spot after Chennai-bound Coromandel Express hit a stationary goods train after entering the loop line and its derailed carriages then collided with the two rear carriages of the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, another passenger train passing in the opposite direction on another track at Bahanaga on the fateful evening. The toll reached 293 with more number of death of victims who were undergoing treatment at hospitals. As many as 28 bodies without claimant were cremated in Bhubaneswar.

The CBI took over the case and arrested Senior Section Engineer (signal) at Balasore Arun Kumar Mahanta, Senior Section Engineer (signal) at Soro Muhammad Amir Khan and Technician at Balasore Pappu Kumar in connection with the train mishap. The three officials were arrested under sections 304 and 201 of the IPC and Section 153 of the Railways Act.

Taking stringent action against top officials a month after the most tragic train accident, Railway authorities transferred the General Manager of South Eastern Railway, Archana Joshi. The Railway Board also transferred five senior officials in the SER, including the Assistant General Manager and the Divisional Railway Manager, responsible for operations, safety and signalling that led to triple train crash claiming over 290 lives. The officials were Kharagpur Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Shujat Hashmi and the SER zone’s Principal Chief Signal and Telecommunication Engineer PM Sikdar, Principal Chief Safety Officer Chandan Adhikary, Principal Chief Security Commissioner DB Kasar, and Principal Chief Commercial Manager Md Owais. Earlier, SER zone’s Additional General Manager, Atulya Sinha was transferred nearly a fortnight after the train tragedy.

Record-breaking cash haul:

Entire country was shocked to see huge amount of cash being seized during searches conducted by Income Tax department against Odisha-based Boudh Distillery Private Limited, its promoters and others at various locations in Odisha as well as in Jharkhand and West Bengal. The cash seized from the company’s multiple factories in Balangir, Titilagarh and Sambalpur was sent to banks in trucks. Even the currency counting machines failed multiple times.

The marathon raids were launched on December 6 on the premises linked to Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand, Dhiraj Prasad Sahu on charges of tax evasion. As per the latest update, the cash seizure reached Rs 353 crore, marking the highest-ever cash haul by any agency in a single operation. The State Bank of India branches took five days to count the seized cash using 40 machines. The counting finally ended on December 10 evening.

While the BJP questioned Congress leader Rahul Gandhi over Rs 300 crore cash recovery during I-T searches, the national party distanced itself from Dhiraj Sahu stating that Congress is no way connected with the businessman.

Cocaine worth Rs 220 Crore seized from Paradip port:

The smuggling of narcotic drugs continued unabated in the state like Odisha as the Customs department seized about 22 kg of cocaine worth approximately Rs 220 Crore from an Indonesian ship docked at Paradip Port. The search was conducted on ‘MV Debi’ ship on the intervening night of November 30 and December 1 based on an input from a crane operator who spotted 22 suspicious packets. The ship had arrived from Gresik port in Indonesia and was scheduled to travel to Denmark. The sniffer dogs were used to search the ship to have scoop. As many as 10 persons including 3 crew members, 6 crane operators and a stevedoring staff were under the scanner in the incident. Suspecting that some of the crew members might have thrown a few packers containing banned drug into the sea before the raid, the scuba divers were engaged to trace more cocaine.

‘Kishore Jena’ – Odisha’s pride:

Javelin thrower Kishore Kumar Jena brought laurel for Odisha and country with achievements on several occasions in international sports events this year. The athlete, who faced visa related challenges to take part at Budapest World Athletics Championship from August 19-27, finished 5th with a personal best of 84.77 m, making his state very proud and making an impression on the Athletics fraternity of the world. Acknowledging it, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik felicitated Kishore Jena with a cash award of Rs 50 lakh for his outstanding performance in the javelin throw and for reaching the finals of the prestigious World Athletics Championship in Budapest, Hungary.

The 28-year-old Javelin star shone at Asian Games held at Hangzhou in China from 23 Sept 2023 – 8 Oct 2023 with a silver medal. While India’s Neeraj Chopra bagged gold with his throw of 88.88 m, Jena claimed silver with his personal best attempt of 87.54 m. With this achievement, he qualified for Paris Olympics.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Odisha javelin thrower for his success at the Asian Games. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a cash award of Rs 1.5 crore for Kishore Jena for the remarkable feat.

Flight services to multiple destinations:

As many new airstrips were upgraded to airports in Odisha, several flight services were operated on various routes in the year 2023.

The flight service between Bhubaneswar and Utkela commenced on August 31, strengthening the tourism sector in Odisha’s Kalahandi district. The newly-constructed Utkela Airport was also inaugurated by Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M. Scindia and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the occasion. A 9-seater IndiaOne Air flight left for Utkela airport from the Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) in Bhubaneswar at around 10.30 am. Utkela became be the fifth airport in Odisha after BPIA, Jharsuguda, Jeypore and Rourkela to start flight operations.

Bhubaneswar-Jeypore second direct flight service started on November 6. The service is being operated by IndiaOne Air airline on Monday and Friday every week. The maiden flight from Bhubaneswar to Jeypore took off on October 31, 2022. Jeypore airport, being the first State-owned airport to receive the license to operate commercial flights in Odisha, had got the nod from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) under the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) scheme of the Centre.

IndiGo airline provided flight services from the Veer Surendra Sai Airport in Jharsuguda to Kolkata and Bengaluru from November 5 and November 15, respectively.

The low-cost airline IndiGo operated the direct and daily flights between Bhubaneswar and Guwahati from October 29. The Bhubaneswar-Guwahati 6E 6913 flight departed from the BPIA in Bhubaneswar at 1.25 pm and arrived at 2.55 pm at Guwahati. The passengers reached the destination in just 1.30 hours at a cost of Rs 6,358.

The much-awaited direct flight service from Odisha’s Steel City Rourkela to West Bengal capital Kolkata started from November 1. Alliance Air operated the air services from the scheduled date on the Rourkela-Kolkata route.

IndiGo airline started direct and daily flight service between Jharsuguda and Bengaluru on November 15. On the first day of the flight service, 180 passengers travelled from Bengaluru to Jharsuguda while 170 passengers flew from Jharsuguda to Bengaluru.

Two Vande Bharat Express trains for Odisha:

The year 2023 brought cheers among railway passengers in Odisha as the Ministry of Railways introduced two Vande Bharat Express trains for the state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the Howrah-Puri Vande Bharat Express at the Puri Railway Station in virtual mode through videoconferencing on May 18. It was the first Vande Bharat Express to run in Odisha. With introduction of the semi-high-speed train, the travel time from pilgrim town Puri to West Bengal city was reduced to only 6.30 hours, thereby saving time, giving rise to business opportunities and providing new opportunities for the youth. The train having 16 coaches runs six days a week (except Thursday) with the stoppages at Kharagpur, Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur Keonjhar Road, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Khurda Road between Howrah and Puri.

The second Vande Bharat Express train for Odisha between Puri and Rourkela was flagged off on September 24 after two successful trial runs. The 20836/20835 Puri-Rourkela-Puri Vande Bharat Express runs six days a week except Saturday having stoppages at Khurda Road, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Angul, Sambalpur City and Jharsuguda between Puri and Rourkela. It covers 505 km distance in just 7.45 hours at an average speed of 63.33 kmph.

National Film Awards for Odia movie Pratikshya:

Renowned filmmaker Anupam Patnaik’s directorial film ‘Pratikshya’ bagged the Best Odia Feature Film award at the 69th National Film Awards ceremony this year. Based on a short story written by Gourahari Das, the film revolves around an unemployed graduate Sanjay who faces the dilemma of securing a government job. He awaits the death of his father Bipin – a government employee – to secure the job on compassionate grounds.

The movie stars Dipanwit Dashmohapatra, Choudhury Jayprakash Das, Barsha Patnaik and Sidhant Mohapatra among others.

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