RAYAGADA: Many new projects and schemes were implemented in Rayagada district in 2016. Yet, the year was marked by sorcery-related killings, accidents and deaths due to diseases like anthrax and diarrhoea and failure of ambulance service.
The year began with Maoist violence when the ultras set on fire a tractor and a JCB machine in Daliakhuji village under Muniguda police limits. The incident occurred at a time when the security forces were busy in preparations for the Republic Day celebration. The vehicles were being used for construction of a canal in the village by a local contractor. In posters left behind at the site, the Maoists accused Naveen Patnaik-led State Government of harassing tribals in Nayamgiri area.
This was followed by a landmine blast and an exchange of fire took place between them and the security personnel near the Niyamgiri hills under Kalyansinghpur police limits. Fortunately, none of the security personnel was injured. Continuing their reign of terror, Maoists killed a Dongria Kondh youth of Nirgundi village under Kalyansinghpur police limits after trial in a kangaroo court.
Subsequently, another Dongria Kondh was killed in a police encounter on February 27 after they branded him as a Maoist. Protesting this, more than 500 Dongria Kondhs under the banner of Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti (NSS) had gheraoed Kalyansinghpur police station.
In what can be termed as a highlight of the year, school SI Netrananda Dandasena got life imprisonment for killing school teacher, Itishree Pradhan, three years back.
Anthrax claimed three lives and affected as many more in Haridaspur village under Tikiri panchayat while one girl died of dengue.
Diarrhoea also claimed several lives in Kalyansinghpur and Kashipur. People in Kashipur block died after suffering from diarrhoea following consumption of gruel prepared with rice, ragi flour and dry mango kernel powder. After more than 10 deaths, presence of cholera virus in water was confirmed by Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC), Bhubaneswar.
Rayagada accounted for seven sorcery-related murders this year with Kashipur and Gunupur being the worst-affected blocks. Even as there was no casualty in Maoist-related violence, more than 100 people died in accidents in the district this year. In one accident, helper of a truck died and the driver sustained critical injuries when their vehicle fell down on railway tracks from the narrow Chatikona overbridge and was hit by a goods train. Superstition related to branding of children to cure them of common ailments continue to make a mockery of the State Government’s effort to check the traditional practice in Rayagada. Five infant girls were branded with hot iron rod in Ramachandrapur village under Ward no-1 under Rayagada Municipality in one day.
The murder of an anganwadi worker of Belakana, Utpala Sukla (50) and her two daughters, made headlines with the anganwadi workers of the district hitting the streets over the killings.
The court of SDJM sentenced Nargish K Ashthari, who ran a charitable organisation in the district, to one year in jail. The NGO, run by the Iranian woman, having British citizenship, came under scanner after a minor boy drowned in Nagavali river during a picnic near the hanging bridge in 2014. The boy’s father, Peter Jilakara, had filed a case against Nargish and secretary of the organisation Raju Gupta at Rayagada police station alleging that the duo was in an inebriated condition when the mishap took place.
Infrastructure wise, the much-awaited permanent bridge over river Bansadhara was opened for public at Gumuda village. The work had started nine years back when the bridge was washed away in flood in 2007. The new G5 building of District Headquarters Hospital was also inaugurated. BJD leader, N Bhaskar Rao, was sent to Rajya Sabha by party supremo Naveen Patnaik.