KEONJHAR: Tension ran high at Belbahali under Anandpur sub-division on Friday night and Saturday when locals pelted stones at police force, protesting construction of the bridge over river Kusei on NH-215.
Even as locals have been protesting the proposed bridge for the last two years claiming that its construction would lead to flooding of the area, the construction firm - Gayatri Projects - began work on the project on Friday afternoon amidst police deployment. On Saturday morning, villagers gathered at the site and pelted stones at the cops following which, the latter had to use teargas to disperse the mob. Four villagers and two policemen were injured.
Receiving information, Keonjhar Collector N Thirumala Nayak and SP Rajesh Pandit along with other senior officials rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control. They are camping at the project site and 18 platoons of police force have been deployed to avert any untoward situation. On the other hand, at least 10,000 people from the village of Belbahali, Jalasuan, Chatara and Haridapal congregated on the other side of the river and fixed a red flag at the spot in protest against the bridge work. They demanded that the design of the bridge be changed. Earlier, the local leaders had met Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari with a demand to change the location of the bridge and following a direction by the Minister, an expert team from the IIT-Kharagpur inspected the project site. The team had stated that there was no need to change the location. Subsequently, the villagers filed a petition in the Orissa High Court which also dismissed the plea and directed the construction firm to go ahead. On July 7 last year, Belbahali villagers and police had come face to face over the demand of relocation of the proposed bridge site resulting in more than 100 villagers getting arrested.