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Nirtar protest intensifies

Cuttack, June 2: Agitating students of National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research (Nirtar) today burnt the effigy of the institute director Bhuban Mohan Pradhan and pressed for his removal.

The students took out a procession carrying the director’s effigy for its “last rites” to the police headquarters before setting it on fire near the office of the director-general of police.

Nirtar, an autonomous institution under the ministry of social justice and empowerment of the Union government, is at Olatpur, 30km from here.

The trouble began in the institute on April 25, when sine die closure of the institute was declared following campus violence. The students have been demanding “disciplinary action” against the director, withdrawal of “false” cases lodged by the director against them and infrastructure development of the institute since then.

The month-old agitation intensified following a students’ convention here on Sunday, where the demand for the ouster of the director was mooted.

The All India Students’ Federation’s (AISF) leaders expressed solidarity with the Nirtar students.

“If necessary, we will spearhead a nationwide agitation and raise the issue in the next parliamentary session,” said AISF general secretary Jitendra Kesari, who was here to attend the convention.

AISF state president Jyoti Ranjan Mohapatra said: “The director lodged false cases against the students to safeguard his own interest.”

The institute’s director Bhuban Mohan Pradhan, however, defending the closure of the institute, said the students’ violence left property worth Rs 50 lakh damaged and a staff nurse and a patient injured.

Police forces had to be called in, the school was closed and students were asked to vacate hostels right after chief secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy visited the troubled site.

The director had also lodged an FIR at a local police station and a counter-FIR was lodged by the students.

Earlier, in May a one-member team from the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment comprising joint secretary Purnima Singh had conducted a probe, whose outcome is still unknown.

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