Apparently aggrieved at his reporting about substandard work in a minor irrigation project, there was a murderous attack on veteran farmer Natawar Sarangi last week, allegedly by henchmen of a contractor.

Mr. Sarangi is known for his pioneering work in organic farming in Narisho village in Cuttack district.

One of the accused has been arrested and a manhunt is on for the main accused.

At a press conference here on Wednesday, Mr. Sarangi’s associate Jubaraj Swain, who was also beaten up, alleged that Bijay Swain and Pabitra Mallick were doing repair work at the Chandipal minor irrigation project site. An executive engineer of Prachi division of the Irrigation Department made an inspection in the morning of December 20 and on seeing a substandard work, he immediately asked the contractor to stop the work.

“Suspecting Mr. Sarangi’s hand in the episode, Bijay and Pabitra went to his house in the afternoon and started berating him. They also threatened to kill him.” Fearing for his life, Mr. Sarangi went to the Balipatna Police Station and sought protection. When he was returning home, he was attacked, Mr. Swain said.

State CPI(M) secretary Janardhan Pati said it was unfortunate that the attack was carried out minutes after Mr. Sarangi lodged a police complaint.

“This shows that criminals are having a free run in the State. The party would launch an agitation if the police failed to bring the culprits to book." he said.

Mr. Sarangi, an 80-year-old former schoolteacher, has virtually made his agricultural field a laboratory of traditional rice varieties. He is credited with growing and preserving 360 traditional varieties.

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