Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 26:
With BDA Enforcement Officer Deba Prasad Dash seeking voluntary retirement after being suddenly transferred in the wake of the partial demolition of what is known as the Patsani Mutt in the Khandagiri area in the Odisha capital on March 7, those behind the encroachment of government land have heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Dash has written to the chief secretary through the BDA vice chairman aksing to be relieved of his job as an odisha Administrative Service (OAS) officer.
Expressing anguish at being transferred six times in the last four years, Dash said he had always discharged his duties with honesty and sincerity since he joined government service in 1992 and had even got ‘outstanding’ rating as an officer.
Despite doing a commendable job as BDA enforcement officer in the last one and a half years, he had been transferred ‘intentionally’, he pointed out requesting the chief secretary to relieve him.
After stiff resistance and high drama, the enforcement authorities had succeeded in razing a portion of the Patasani mutt allegedly encroached by local BJD MP Prasanna Patasani on March 7.
The state government has claimed that Dash’s transfer to BMC as Deputy Commissioner (Recovery) was a routine departmental transfer and he would continue to carry forward his earlier role in the new capacity too. But there are very few takers for the government’s convoluted argument.
The transfer followed by the resignation of Dash, who led the charge, seems to have removed the thorn in the flesh of the encroachers and their godfathers. With the ‘thorn’ now well and truly out of the way, the Patsani camp just cannot stop gloating.
Sources privy to the developments say the visitors have started gathering again at the mutt purportedly used for Janata Darbar (Grievance Cell) of BJD MP Prasanna Patasani. Patsani’s supporters are now boasting that the administrative officer paid the price for daring to take on their godfather. They are convinced that the mutt is safe now.
The Bajarangbali mutt, popularly known as Patasani mutt, was built on encroached land belonging to the General Administration (GA) department. Though the self-appointed mutt head Raghunath Das was branded as the encroacher of the land, the parliamentarian was allegedly managing his party affairs from behind the scenes.
The people associated with the mutt tried every bit to take control of the land from the GA department. However, a detailed report first published in leading Odia daily ‘Sambad’ in December last year poured cold water on their intentions.
Following this, the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) filed a case against the encroacher. The authorities initiated the process in January this year but only managed to achieve a breakthrough in March. The mutt was razed partially after over four hours of protests, scuffle, mild baton charge, burning of tyres, road blocks and every possible mean to hinder the process.
Though it wasn’t a slum eviction drive, slum dwellers were seen resisting the BDA demolition team along with Patsani supporters.
The boundary wall, yagna bedi (a platform for offering prayers), darbar (a pedestal for mass assembly) and other illegal structures were demolished while the temple in the mutt premises could not be demolished as darkness was setting in. The authorities told them that the remaining job will be done later.
Notably, the encroacher Raghunath Das has lost the case he had filed against the demolition with his appeal being rejected by the High Court on January 22 this year. Under the Odisha Development Authorities Act, 1982 (ODA Act), BDA had given him one month’s time to vacate the land. Even after 45 days, he did not vacate the land forcing the joint eviction team to go ahead with the eviction drive.
After the eviction squad left the venue owing to shortage of time only to resume the job on another day, some influential people are said to have used their clout to shunt Dash out from the department.
It remains to be seen whether the encroachment drive at the mutt, which was left midway, meets it logical end after the exit of Dash from the scene.