Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhadrak, Aug 15:
Serious allegations have surfaced against former Odisha minister and BJD MLA Prafulla Samal and his son Prayaskanti Samal for converting the engineering college at Barpada in Bhadrak district into their family property.
College employees and locals have alleged that crores of rupees have been siphoned off from the college funds by the family for operating buses and running other businesses.
College employees, supported by by locals, observed a 12-hour bandh on Friday to lodge their protest against the illegal activities of the politically powerful family. Protestors demanded freeing og the college from the clutches of the Samal family and sought its take-over by the government. With Friday’s Bhadrak bandh, the demand for removal of MLA Samal’s son Prayaskanti from the president’s post in the college’s governing body has grown shriller.
Resentment has been brewing among the college employees for quite some time over non-payment of their salaries for five months. Both employees and students have staged dharnas and resorted to agitation on several occasions demanding payment of the pending salary dues.
But the explosion of bombs inside the college campus on August 7 proved to be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. Tempers ran high in the campus after several employees on dharna and some students too were injured in the incident.
The Bhadrak Ganatantrik Nagrik Manch had given a call for a 12-hour bandh on Friday in protest against the violent incident. The bandh call received spontaneous support from the public. Padlocks were seen on the gates of all government offices including the collector’s office, courts, tehsil office, schools and colleges, banks, post offices and private establishments and shops remained closed in thw town.
During the Friday shutdown, the public blamed MLA Samal and his son for all the wrongdoings in the college.
They alleged that the college was established in 1957 and it was managed by the state government in 1964. In 1982 and 1991, it came under the direct management of the local MLA.
Currently, it is under private management. MLA Samal and his family members have been managing the affairs of the college for a pretty long time. It was in 1990-91 that MLA Samal first took over as the president of the governing body of the college.
In 2007, he handed over the management of the college to his son Prayaskanti. Not only Prayaskanti, his wife Arpita Jena too works in the college as the placement officer.
Even Sudarshan Barik, who used to be a private tutor in the Samal family, has been appointed as an employee in the college. Currently, Barik allegedly operates six buses in his name.
Similarly, 34 buses are plying in the name of MLA Samal’s wife. Protestors during the bandh demanded a probe to find out whether funds of the college were utilized to buy these buses. Protestors alleged that the college is built on 105 acres of government land and its management be transferred to the government instead of the Samal family which has turned the college into a private property of theirs.