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Lokayukta notices to Odisha MLA, engineers for alleged destruction of embankment

The embankment was blown away using dynamites in order to give an impression that swirling floodwaters had caused the breach, alleges an RTI activist in a petition.

October 22, 2020 01:57 pm | Updated 01:57 pm IST - BHUBANESWAR:

Odisha Lokayukta has issued notices to six persons, including a Member of Legislative Assembly, in connection with alleged deliberate destruction of an irrigation embankment in order to cover up corruption and substandard work.

An RTI activist, Sarbeswar Beura, filed a petition with the Lokayukta alleging that some people, who were involved in substandard construction of an irrigation embankment in Jajpur district, had deliberately blown away the embankment using dynamites in order to give an impression that swirling floodwaters had caused the breach.

According to Mr. Beura, the incident had taken place on night of August 28 where there was flood water in Keura River under Dharmasala block of Jajpur district. The embankment between Gokarneswar and Budhalinga Majhipada Road was damaged, causing the loss of paddy in 4,000 hectares.

People noticed that the breach in the embankment was not natural, but man-made. “It is alleged that Pranab Balabantaray, local BJD MLA, and Naren Jena, junior engineer of office of the executive engineer, Panikoili Road and Building Division were behind the conspiracy. They had engaged miscreants to damage this embankment with explosives in order to suppress the irregularities and misappropriation of huge amount of money in the construction work,” activist submitted.

As per the petition, the project was sanctioned at an estimate of ₹21.99 crore to one Balakrushna Mohanty in 2016. The work was to be completed by April 30, 2018. However, the contractor faced problem due to political interference. The project got delayed for which project cost was escalated to ₹ 24.47 crore.

“The construction of the embankment ended in last part of 2019. Having seen the low quality of work, I had filed RTI application which was rejected. Authorities apprehended that corruption could have been exposed. The low quality of work was highly visible in the road,” Mr. Beura alleged.

As the issue was highlighted in newspapers, the top government authorities had admitted that the destruction of embankment was man-made. Even the Road and Building Department had lodged a complaint with Dharmasala Police seeking inquiry into the breach.

Mr. Beura urged the Lokayukta to conduct an inquiry by engaging a technical expert team and Crime Branch, Odisha police, to find out the reasons behind destruction of embankment, miscreants involved, and involvement of local MLA and officials. He had sought stringent legal action against the people responsible for it.

Lokayukta issued notices to Jajpur District Collector, Chief Engineer of Department of Works, MLA Mr. Balabantaray, Mr. Jena, junior engineer and execute engineer, and his deputy of Roads and Building division of Panikoili. It listed the matter on December 3.

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