M A I N   N E W S

80 houses torched in Kandhamal

Mohapatra to head probe

Bhubaneswar: Eight days after ordering a judicial probe into the killing of Laxamananda Saraswati and four others at Jaleshpatta Ashram in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, the state government today said Justice Sarat Chandra Mohapatra would head the inquiry commission. Justice Mohapatra, a retired judge of the Orissa High Court, had retired as the Lok Pal barely two days ago. — PTI

Bhubaneswar, September 2
The situation in Orissa’s riot-hit Kandhamal district continues to be volatile today with at least 80 houses being torched in fresh violence as the government accelerated relief and rehabilitation efforts for which Rs 2 crore have been sanctioned.

A high-level team of officials, including home secretary T.K. Mishra and DGP Gopal Chandra Nanda, visited the violence-scarred district to review the situation and assess the extent of damage, official sources said.

The visit was to work out strategies for containing arson and violence in the communally sensitive district as well as stepping up relief and rehabilitation operations for the affected, they said.

At least 80 houses were torched in fresh arson in several villages of Tikabali and Sarangada areas since yesterday noon despite considerable improvement in situation that prompted authorities to suspend day curfew, the sources said.

Describing force scarcity as a big handicap in containing arson, IGP (Intelligence) R.P. Singh said only 2,500 personnel from various forces, including the CRPF, were available to combat violence in villages across the district.

“As the arson continues to trouble rural pockets, there is only one jawan to tackle the situation in every village,” a senior police officer pointed out.

However, the situation was now effectively under control and fast returning to normal, said another official.

As many as 19,000 riot-affected people were sheltered in relief centres set up in 10 out of 12 blocks in the district, Sahu said, adding such camps were set up in all areas except Kotagada and Khajuripada.

While people continue to pour into relief camps, a large number of victims of communal violence had come all the way to the state capital in search of safety and security. They have been accommodated at the YMCA here with arrangements for food and other necessities, sources said.

Out of Rs 2 crore sanctioned by the state government for Kandhamal, half the amount will be handed over to district administration for relief, while the remaining amount will be given to the Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA), sources said.

The administration was directed to submit a report of damages, in violence following the August 23 killing of VHP leader swami Laxmananda Saraswati, at the earliest as a high-level team of officials visited the district today to assess and inspect relief work, they said. — PTI



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