A member of the BJP Mahila Morcha protests during Saturday’s strike in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 10: The 12-hour strike call, given by the BJP seeking resignations of chief minister Naveen Patnaik and health minister Damodar Rout in protest against the death of the 15-year-old girl of Mahakalapada, received a mixed response.
In many parts of the state as well as in Bhubaneswar, shops and petrol pumps were shut down in the morning. People hurled stones at a bus at Ram Mandir Square and a shopping mall at Saheed Nagar.
As BJP activists staged a dharna at Bhubaneswar railway station, many long-route trains, including Puri-Hatia Tapswini Express, Puri-Yasvantpur Express, Sambalpur and Balangir Intercity Express, had been stopped for a few hours. Many passengers alleged that they were not aware of the strike. “The political parties should create awareness before giving a 12-hour hartal call,” said Pradumna Das, 36, a computer professional.
BJP state unit president K.V. Singh Deo, party’s national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan and others courted arrest while staging demonstration near Lower PMG Square.
Rout has come under severe criticism for his reported statement that the he suspected loud noises outside the ICU could have had adverse impact on the victim’s health. “I have a great suspicion that the noise near the ICU had worsened her health condition and she died,” he had said.
“The Opposition has right to take up any issue. But, there is no need for me to resign. The Opposition had also demanded the resignation of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit when the incident of rape and death of a girl was reported in Delhi. But, did she step down?” he asked.
A delegation, led by Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena and Union minister of state for chemical and fertiliser Srikant Jena, briefed governor S.C. Jamir about the deteriorating law and order situation.
The Union minister said: “People wanted to know who had decided to shift the girl, who had been on ventilator, to Delhi. The accused had burnt 50 per cent of her body and the state government burnt the rest. This is a criminal offence.”
The BJD, however, reiterated that no one should rake up the sensitive issue on political grounds.
Two men allegedly raped the girl before setting her on fire on July 28 at Khairnashi village. She had succumbed to injuries on Thursday night on her way to Biju Patnaik Airport from where she had to be flown to Delhi.
The death of the girl sparked a debate that she had not even received proper treatment. Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) general secretary and senior Cuttack Congress leader Suresh Routray said: “We will stage a dharna in front of the SCB hospital on Monday demanding to know the basis on which the hospital had decided to shift the girl.”
Routray said no proper procedure was followed while arrangements were made to shift the girl.
“Even the ambulance, which had come earlier to take the girl, had no oxygen facilities. The girl remained without ventilator for quite sometime, which led to her death.”
Accusing the government of negligence, he said had the government shifted the girl earlier to Delhi, her life could have been saved.
An official on the condition of anonymity said the plastic surgery professor had not been there when arrangements were being made to shift her. Even the surgery ward, in which the girl had been kept, caught fire on August 4. Later with much difficulties, she was shifted to another ward and put there for nearly three days, which also deteriorated her health condition.