Reported by Ranjan Rath
Rayagada, May 12:
While the scars of the ethnic violence in the backdrop of religious conversions in Kandhamal are yet to be fully wiped out, allegations of Odisha government officials nudging a Dalit family into religious conversion to avail the benefits of social welfare schemes is certain to put the government on the dock.
A Dalit BPL family from Rengalapadu village in Dunduli panchayat under Kolnara block has levelled serious charges against the Tehsildar and Block Development Officer (BDO) of luring them to convert to Christianity to have ‘good times’.
A Dalit woman has approached the district administration with a host of complaints against Kolnara Tehsildar, Bernadutta Lakra and BDO Shantiprava Pradhan following which a probe has been ordered.
The landless, economically backward family ran from pillar to post to avail the benefits of various social welfare schemes launched by the government. It had been making futile approaches to the officials of the Kolnara Tehsil office before meeting the Tehsildar. She pleaded before the official to be given benefits including providing land patta, considering her frail financial status.
The Tehsildar, Bernadutta Lakra, allegedly told the lady member of the Dalit family Nilandri Nag that all the welfare schemes would be at her doorsteps if only the family converts to Christianity. Lakra allegedly told her that she would be provided permanent land patta for Indira Away Yojna (IAY) homes and other benefits.
“The BDO told me that we should convert to Christianity considering our financial condition. ‘You have a son and a daughter. Think of their future. If you convert to Christianity the future of your children will be secured. A savings account will be opened in your name and you will be eligible to avail all the social security benefits, the BDO said’, Nilendri told media persons.
Nilandri detailed the inveiglement attempt to the District Collector at the grievance redressal cell recently.
“We are Hindus since generations and we won’t convert to any other religion at any cost, even for financial benefits,” Nilandri was quoted as saying.
Acting on the complaint, the District Collector has asked the sub collector to probe into the allegations.
Action will be initiated after the inquiry is over, the District Collector said.