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A year after, prime accused in Odisha lady teacher murder still at large

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Reported by Ranjan Rath
Rayagada, Oct 27:

Exactly a year after the brutal murder of Itishree Pradhan, a lady teacher at Tikiri Upper Primary School in Odisha’s Rayagada district, the prime accused is still at large. So much for the concern of the state administration, every rung of which was approached by the deceased teacher for protection against harassment.

itishree pradhan

While the Rayagada Fast Track Court is yet to record the statement of a single witness, the state government has so far taken action only against lowly employees while letting big fish like the district collector and SP off the hook.

As the incident hogged the headlines in the print and electronic media, the state government had hurriedly ordered a Crime Branch investigation.

While the deceased, in her dying statement, had identified the accused wearing a blue jeans pant, who had poured kerosene on her body and set her on fire, the Crime Branch police have not yet been able to nab him.

It seems that the state investigating agencies have washed their hands off after arresting School Inspector Netrananda Dandasena and framing a 52-page charge-sheet against him in the court.

On its part, the state government too is sitting tight after dismissing Dandasena and two others—former District Inspector of Schools (DI) Dharanidhar Behera and Sujit Sahu, officer-in-charge of Tikiri police station—from the service.

It may be mentioned here that the Supreme Court, after hearing a PIL on the incident, had asked the state government to conduct a probe by a senior bureaucrat into the incident.

Acting on the order of the apex court, the state government had sent Agriculture secretary Rajesh Verma, for an inquiry into the circumstance leading to the death of Itishree and any possible lapse by the local administration. After a closed door interrogation of the collector Sashibhusan Padhi and SP Rajesh Pandit, Verma had submitted a report to the state government, which the latter has chosen to keep under wraps for five months now for reasons best known to it.

The lady teacher, who was rescued from a room in the school with severe burn injuries at about 9 PM on October 27 last year, was admitted to the Tikiri CHC and then shifted to Rayagada district headquarters hospital. As her condition became critical, she was rushed to the Care Hospital at Vishakhapatnam.

While her first statement was recorded by a local magistrate at the Rayagada district headquarters hospital, the Metropolitan Magistrate of Vishakhapatnam had recorded her dying statement in which she had blamed the apathy of the chief minister and the district administration for not taking action against the officials who had been harassing her.

While the family members were denied justice despite their repeated requests to the chief minister, senior bureaucrats and the district administration while Itishree was alive, they are still hopeful of getting justice at least after her death.