58-day Keonjhar stir may end as Odisha govt concedes major demand

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 7:

Prospects for the withdrawal of the 58-day-long agitation in Keonjhar staged by Keonjhar Militia Kriyanusthana Committee (KMKC) have brightened after the Odisha government agreed to set up a medical college in the town, one of the major demands ofthe Committee.

keonjhar stirAs per a formula worked out at a metting between the Odisha government and the KMKC at the State Secretariat here on Monday, the former would submit a proposal to the Centre for setting up of a medical college and hospital in Keonjhar town during 2015-16.

It was decided that if the Centre does not agree to the proposal, the district administration would provide all infrastructure facilities to the state-owned public sector units (PSUs) and corporate houses to set up the proposed medical college and hospital.

“The state government, on the other hand, would obtain necessary approval from the Medical Council of India (MCI) to the run the proposed medical college and hospital,” Finance minister Pradip Kumar Amat told reporters after the meeting.

“It was decided to recommend a proposal to the Government of India for establishment of the proposed medical college and hospital in Keonjhar district during 2015-16 as has been done in case of Baripada, Baleswar, Bolangir, Koraput and Puri districts,” the Finance minister said.

“In case the Centre does not agree to the proposal, we will mobilise our own resources to set up the proposed hospital in the district headquarters hospital premises,” Rural Development minister Badri Narayan Patra, who was present at the meeting, told the media.

He, however, said the meeting could not have a full-fledged discussion on the proposed agriculture university in the district and conversion of DD College to a unitary university, Patra said.

“The Higher Education minister has assured the KMKC that to make the DD College a unitary university, the state government has entered into an agreement with the Centre for financial assistance for its infrastructure development under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Siksha Abhiyan (RUSA) this year,” he added.

“The meeting, in spite of the delay, was successful. The nodal minister and the Finance minister are scheduled a make an announcement on this at the KMKC mandap at Keonjhar on Wednesday,” said a member of the committee.

Replying to a question on the decision of the KMKC to call off the strike, he said the committee would call off the strike after the state government makes a formal announcement in this regard.

The committe, with the support of the local population, has been on a marathon agitation since February 9 this year to press its five-point charter of demands. They are: establishment of a large-scale steel industry, a government medical college and an agriculture university in the district, unitary university staus for Dharanidhara Mahavidyalaya and rail connectivity to Champua and Anandpur.

While KMKC started with a rally and mass agitation on February 9, they organised a 24-hour Keonjhar bandh on February 20, which was supported by all sections of the society. The agitation later spread to Champua and Anandpur areas of the district.

“Even though our district provides hundreds of crores to the state exchequer in terms of tax, the state government always metes out step-motherly treatment to the district. The people here are very poor and work as migrant laborers in other states. The state government; however, is doing nothing for the welfare of the district forcing us to agitate,” said Rudra Narayan Mohanta, Convenor of KMKC.

“The truck owners’ association of the district has been supporting the actions of KMKC and will continue to support it in the future,” said Bhaktabandhu Mahatna, President of Joda Truck Owner’s Association.

It may be noted that, KMKC force stopped the extraction and transportation minerals in April 2 after their continued protest was not paid attention to. The Finance minister spoke to the representatives of the committee for the first time two days into the logjam on April 4.

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