Deo irrigation project faces resistance over shrine relocation

Official sources said frequent meetings between officials and the villagers have failed to yield any result.

Published: 17th February 2021 06:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th February 2021 08:51 AM   |  A+A-

Officials discussing with tribal villagers of Hatibari at the meeting | Express

By Express News Service

BARIPADA: The 29-year-old Deo Irrigation Project in Karanjia sub-division of Mayurbhanj district has been saddled with roadblocks ever since its conception, the most recent being resistance by tribals over relocation of a shrine from the site. The district administration is planning to shift the Jahire Sthan on March 10. 

The project, expected to benefit farmers across Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts once completed, is now faced with stiff resistance by tribals in Hatibari village over shifting of the Jahire Sthan (shrine). The shrine’s location has become the bone of contention as it is located near the project’s canal embankment and stands in way of constructions. 

Even as the district administration has reportedly been planning to relocate the shrine to another place to speed up work, the villagers of Hatibari under Miriginondi Gram Panchayat seem to be unwilling to cooperate despite a large number of them rehabilitated to a settlement colony since 2019. Sources said the villagers, who have been worshipping at the shrine for generations, want the district administration to change the path of construction rather than relocate an age-old place of worship. 

A meeting on February 8 among the tribal priests, villagers, officials of Settlement department, Karanjia Sub Collector and other officials too failed to break the deadlock as both parties stuck to their stands. Official sources said the rehabilitated families are raising issues despite getting all facilities as per the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2006. “In fact, most of their demands aren’t even linked to the shrine relocation,” they said, adding that the district administration is planning to shift the Jahire Sthan on March 10 if the villagers cooperate and things go as planned. 

While the administration has reportedly agreed  to provide all support for setting up of a new Jahire Sthan apart from plantation of trees and boundary walls around the religious place, the Settlement department issued notice to the rehabilitated families to take a decision within a week. 

Official sources said frequent meetings between officials and the villagers have failed to yield any result. “Authorities concerned are still trying their best to convince the families,” they said. Karanjia Sub-Collector Rajanikanta Biswal on Sunday said the tribal families have been given a week to resolve the issue.

The construction of Deo Irrigation Project had began in June 1992 when Biju Patnaik was the chief minister . It was supposed to be completed by 1997.  But the project has been in cold storage reportedly due to land hurdles and irregular allocation of funds by the State Government. Initially estimated at Rs 52 crore, the delay has led to cost overruns and the project is now estimated at Rs 900 crore. However, it is expected to be operational by May this year. 

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