Bandh brings Western Odisha to its knees

Normal life comes to a grinding halt in 8 districts; vehicular movement, train services hit

Published: 06th February 2020 10:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th February 2020 10:26 AM   |  A+A-

Vehicles stranded on National Highway 53 and shops closed during the dawn-to-dusk bandh in Sambalpur town.

Vehicles stranded on National Highway 53 and shops closed during the dawn-to-dusk bandh in Sambalpur town. (Photo | EPS)

By Express News Service

 SAMBALPUR/ROURKELA/BALANGIR: Normal life came to a standstill in eight districts of the Western Odisha region on Wednesday as the dawn-to-dusk bandh called by the bar associations demanding establishment of a High Court bench drew spontaneous response. Across Sambalpur, Bargarh, Deogarh Sundargarh, Balangir, Nuapada, Sonepur and Jharsuguda districts, all State and Central Government offices, educational institutions, banks and business establishments remained closed due to the agitation. Vehicular movement was disrupted in these districts while train services were hit as the lawyers staged rail-roko at Sambalpur Railway station.

While Sambalpur-Puri Intercity Express was cancelled, seven trains were delayed due to the agitation. This apart, movement of three trains had to be regulated. At least 21 agitators were taken into preventive custody during the rail roko but later were released later. The bandh evoked total response in Sambalpur where lawyers protested Odisha Bar Council’s recommendation to the Bar Council of India (BCI) to take disciplinary action against the agitating bar associations of Western Odisha. Major political parties including the BJD, BJP and Congress besides the trade unions extended support to the bandh. 

President of District Bar Association, Sambalpur Bijitendriya Pradhan said the Central Action Committee (CAC) of All Western Odisha Bar Association (AWOBA) had demanded that the State Government submit a comprehensive proposal for establishment of High Court bench in Western Odisha by August 30 last year. 

“The Government is yet to initiate any step in this regard which forced the CAC to intensify its stir. We also condemn Odisha Bar Council’s recommendation to BCI for disciplinary action against agitating bar associations of the region,” he said. The council’s recommendation is detrimental to the interest of lawyers and a conspiracy to sabotage the movement for establishment of High Court bench in the region, he added.Members of Sundargarh DBA resorted to picketing and shut down all Government offices. Shops, commercial establishments and educational institutions were also forced to close while vehicles remained off the roads. Transport of coal through roadways was also badly affected. Claiming that the bandh was total, SDBA president Dushmanta Naik said the recommendation of the State Bar Council is unjust.

At Rourkela, lawyers confined the protest to the court boundary. Rourkela Bar Association (RBA) members refrained from attending court work. One of the largest bar associations in Western Odisha, RBA had been previously demanding establishment of an HC bench at Rourkela. However this time, RBA did not press for it. RBA president Ramesh Chandra Bal said they fully support the demand for HC bench in Western Odisha. The location should be finalised on merit as per the recommendation of Justice CR Pal Commission and guidelines of Justice Jaswant Singh panel, he added.

Similar situation prevailed in Balangir as locals and lawyers blocked roads leading to important offices in the town. The bandh was total in Titilagarh, Kantabanji, Patnagarh, Loisingha and Saintala. Normal life in Khariar and Komna of Nuapada district and Birmaharajpur, Dunguripali, Binka and Rampur of Sonepur was also thrown out of gear due to the shutdown. However, the bandh had less impact in Sonepur town.Koshal State Coordination Committee (KSCC) extended its support to the bandh call. President of KSCC Pramod Kumar Mishra said people from all walks of life supported the bandh. Lawyers and other organisations will intensify protests if the HC bench is not established in the region soon, he added.

No impact in Kalahandi
The Western Odisha bandh had no effect on normal life in Kalahandi district. However, members of Kalahandi Bar Association abstained from court work in solidarity with their counterparts of other Western Odisha districts. President of Kalahandi Bar Association Bhavendra Panda said, “We refrained from court work after being requested by Bar Associations of Sambalpur and Balangir. However, we do not support the bandh as the district bar association has been demanding establishment of a HC bench in Kalahandi.” The lawyers of Kalahandi are staging peaceful protest on the last Monday of every month demanding a HC bench in the district.

Pujari request to CM
Bargarh MP Suresh Pujari on Wednesday urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to sent a concrete proposal to the Centre for establishment of permanent benches of the Orissa High Court (HC) in western region of the State. “The Union Law Ministry has written twice to the Orissa HC on the issue but the Centre is yet to get any response from the court,” Pujari said. The Bargarh MP said Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had suggested the Chief Minister to consult the HC Chief Justice in the matter and submit a proposal to the Centre for the proposed establishment of permanent HC benches in western and southern parts of the State.

Once the State Government and the HC communicate their clear views, the Centre will take necessary action in this matter. But unfortunately, neither the State Government nor the HC has responded to the Union Minister, Pujari said. “I request the Chief Minister to have necessary consultation with the Chief Justice of Orissa High Court and work out the details of the proposed HC Benches,” he said. In a letter to Prasad in January last year, Naveen had urged the Centre to take early decision regarding establishment of permanent benches of Orissa HC in the western and southern parts of the State to fulfil the aspirations of people.

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