Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Keonjhar, Sep 12:
As villagers remained adamant on their demand for relocating the site of the proposed bridge over river Kusei at Belabahali under Anandpur sub-division in Odisha’s Keonjhar district and intensified their protest, the district administration today decided to halt construction work for two days.
“No construction work will be undertaken for two days. We hope normalcy will return,” informed Keonjhar Collector N Tirumala Nayak to media after holding consultations with other senior government officials.
According to people in the know of things, the district administration has convened a high-level meeting tomorrow to decide on the future course of action vis-a-vis construction of the proposed bridge.
Local leaders from about ten nearby villages gathered at the proposed bridge construction site on Sunday and decided not to allow construction work.
Ghasipura police Sunday arrested three villagers for attacking policemen on duty.
Moreover, Keonjhar Superintendent of police Rajesh Pandit had yesterday told reporters that cases have been registered against more than two hundred villagers at Ghasipura and Ramchandrapur police stations for attacking policemen.
Police had lobbed tear gas shells and fire rubber bullets at the protestors on Friday to disperse them off.
At least two policemen and five protestors were injured in the scuffle.
Notably, Belabahali villagers have been on an agitation for around a year opposing the proposed bridge over river Kusei on the national highway no. 215 in Anandpur subdivision.
On July 7 last year, Belabahali villagers and police had come face to face on the demand for the relocation of the proposed bridge site resulting in over hundred villagers getting arrested and sent to jail.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had intervened in the matter and had sought an action taken report from the state’s Director General of Police (DGP) regarding action taken against police officers over the injury of villagers at Belabahali where the latter was protesting against the construction of a bridge.
Yielding to the opposition of the villagers to the site of the bridge, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had appointed an expert team comprising of experts from IIT Kharagpur and former Works department secretary G C Mitra to re-examine the location of the proposed bridge and its design.
The expert team in its report stated that the site and design of the proposed bridge was suitable and had recommended for going ahead with it.
This apart, a PIL was filed in the Orissa High court opposing the construction of the bridge.
The High Court, on August 30 this year, rejected the petition and refused to interfere in the decision of the Technical Committee over the construction of the bridge.