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Belabahali remains tense; villagers firm on demand

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Anandpur (Keonjhar)/Cuttack, Jul 8:

Palpable tension prevails at Belabahali village under Anandpur block subdivision of Odisha’s Keonjhar district after Tuesday’s bloody clash between villagers and policemen opposing construction of a proposed bridge over river Kusei as part of the National Highway 215 four-laning project.

belabahali blockade

While villagers are steadfast in their opposition to the proposed bridge at the present location, RDC (Northern) held a high level meeting today to take stock of the situation.

The village wore a deserted look with shops remaining closed. Though the school at the village was open, there were no students. An eerie calm prevails in the village and tension is palpable in the air.

Locals gathered at the village square today to decide on their future course of action. Local outfit Belabahali Anchalika Surakshya Manch has announced that under no circumstances will it allow construction of the bridge at the proposed location. The villagers are demanding construction of the new bridge alongside the old bridge instead of on the bypass.

“The first thing that needs to be conceded is that the bridge should not come there. If at all the government uses force to construct the bridge at the proposed location, we will oppose it tooth and nail. We will oppose construction of bridge at the proposed location. We won’t oppose the National Highway if it’s constructed elsewhere,” said Pramod Prusty, Secretary of the Manch.

However, traffic flow was normal today on the National Highway 215, where Belabahali villagers had staged a dharna and had blocked the road opposing the construction of the bridge yesterday. Policemen are guarding and patrolling the NH while heavy deployment has been made in Machala and Barigaon villages connecting Belabahali. NBS Rajput RDC (North) today visited the place for an on the spot survey.

“They can always place their views during discussions, but it’s technically not feasible. The only proposal that is technically feasible is the one that has come from the NH authorities. Work on that proposal is justified,” Rajput said in a comment that is certain to harden the villagers’ position.

A total of 99 persons, including 66 women, who were arrested on Tuesday for the violence have been sent to jail.

On the other hand, Odisha Administrative Service Association (OASA) today met DGP Sanjeev Marik at his office in Cuttack demanding action against the culprits in the attack on Anandapur BDO Sunil Kerketa. Kerketa was injured in Tuesday’s clash at Belabahali while on official duty as protestors pelted stones.

While villagers and policemen had sustained injuries during yesterday’s clas, three from the police side, including a lady ASI, had sustained critical injuries. They are undergoing treatment at the SCB Medical College & Hospital at Cuttack.

Hundreds of people from Ghasipura and Anandpur who are in favour of the bridge at the proposed location met today the RDC (Northern) and demanded early start of the construction work on the proposed bridge.