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Tension over jumbo death

Keonjhar, Jan 27: Employees of Northern Electricity Supply Company (Nesco), a power distribution unit, today launched an agitation to protest against the arrest of their colleagues in connection with the death of two elephants yesterday.

All Keonjhar division employees — from lineman to engineering officials — wore black badges and sat on indefinite dharna in front of the office of the executive engineer.

Acting on an FIR filed by the the divisional forest officer (DFO), Keonjhar, forest department officials arrested junior engineer Sthitapragnya Mohanty and lineman Indramani Biswal. They were forwarded to court and later remanded to judicial custody after their bail pleas were rejected.

“The arrest is unjustified and uncalled for as the elephant deaths were not caused because of any fault of the Nesco staff. Hence, we are opposing the arbitrary arrest of our colleagues in connection with the death of two elephants,” said Bibhudutta Sahu, leader of Nesco Karmachari Sangh. They have threatened to intensify their protest if the arrested employees are not released immediately.

“We will continue our agitation as long as our colleagues are not released. We will intensify the agitation if our demand is not met,” said Benudhar Jena, another leader of the employees’ union.

On the other hand, forest department officials said it was the electrical staff’s negligence that led to the death of the elephants.

“The negligence of the electrical staff over the death of two elephants cannot be ruled out. There have been several incidents in the district in the last couple of years in which elephants died as a result of electrocution,” said Sarat Kumar Mohanty, divisional forest officer, Keonjhar.

“That is why we took steps this time to fix the responsibility for the loss of the lives of two elephants,” the DFO said.

The DFO also blamed the electricity department for not being apparently indifferent to the recurrence of incidents of electrocution causing elephant deaths, and said a case would be filed soon against Nesco under the Wildlife Protection Act.

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