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RTI activist found dead under mysterious circumstances in Odisha

Activists suspect Ranjan might have been killed as he had raised his voice against illegal sand quarries and brick kiln owners.
 

Published: 02nd February 2020 07:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd February 2020 07:44 AM   |  A+A-

The deceased RTI activist Ranjan Kumar Das

The deceased RTI activist Ranjan Kumar Das

By Express News Service

KENDRAPARA: An RTI activist was found dead in Berua village within Marsaghai police limits on Saturday.

His body bore injury marks on head and eyes. Police suspect the victim, Ranjan Kumar Das (40), who was the convener of the district unit of Odisha Jana Suchana Adhikar Abhijan of Talasanga village, was killed by a few miscreants on Friday night.

Several social workers and RTI activists suspect that Ranjan might have been killed as he had raised his voice against illegal sand quarries, brick kiln owners, a few  NGOs and officials in the district and its nearby areas by obtaining information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

RTI activist Amarabara Biswal said an RTI inquiry filed by Ranjan two years back had exposed illegal construction of a tourist resort by Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) in Bhitarkanika National Park.

“Das had brought to the fore the violation of law by OTDC by building a tourist resort in the core area of the national park,” he said.

Last year, Ranjan had exposed misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 25 lakh allotted under Integrated  Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) to an NGO of the district in connivance with officials of Bhitarkanika National Park by not planting mangrove trees in the forest.

An RTI inquiry filed by Ranjan had revealed that the NGO had got the prestigious 12th Bhagwan Mahaveer Award along with `5 lakh from former President Pratibha Patil in 2008 by falsely claiming to have stopped animal sacrifice in a temple.

However, an official of the NGO refuted the allegations.

“Our organisation has not misappropriated any funds allotted to us to regenerate mangrove forest under ICZM project,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ranjan’s body was sent to SCB Medical College and Hospital in  Cuttack for autopsy. A case has been registered under Section 302 of IPC. Police have formed a special team to investigate the case.

“We have also pressed sniffer dogs during our investigation,” said Kendrapara SDPO Rajiv Lochan Panda. State Convenor of Odisha Suchana Adhikar Abhijan Pradeep Pradan, RTI activist Chitta Ranjan Behera, senior advocate Sudhir Mohanty and other activists of the district have demanded a CBI probe into the incident. 

Stifling the truth 

  • Ranjan Kumar Das used RTI as a tool to highlight corruption in the district

  • He had exposed illegal construction of a tourist resort by OTDC in Bhitarkanika 

  • An NGO had misappropriated funds allotted under ICZM and it was brought to light by the RTI activist

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