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Cuffs on legislator for Talcher clash

- Pradhan hints at BJD hand

Bhubaneswar/Angul, Nov. 30: Police today arrested Talcher MLA Braja Kishore Pradhan for his alleged involvement in yesterday’s clash between his supporters and contractors at two railway sidings in the Talcher coalfields.

“Pradhan has been arrested,” said director-general of police Prakash Mishra. A first-time MLA, he was elected from Talcher as an Independent in 2009 after being denied a ticket by the Congress. However, the party now backs him.

Angul police superintendent Narasingh Bhol said: “We have filed an FIR against Pradhan as there is direct evidence of his involvement in the clash.” Yesterday, a mob had torched more than 40 vehicles, including the car of the personnel manager of Jagannath coalfields. The mob also ransacked the office of the general manger of Jagannath coalfields at Talcher.

Violence erupted after casual workers in Talcher coalfield area protested against the retrenchment of some of their colleagues. The casual workers were the MLA’s supporters. Sources said retrenchment took place after the job of unloading and transportation of coal was assigned to a new contractor, who employed his own men. This sparked off tension, leading to yesterday’s clash. The police, too, have been criticised for failing to maintain law and order in the area, despite specific information about growing tension.

Angul police picked up Pradhan minutes after he came out of the Assembly, which is in session. Before his arrest, the MLA had pointed accusing fingers at the police and some ruling party politicians, insinuating that they were behind the incident though he did not name them.

“Senior police officials and ministers are hand-in-glove with local goons. They are responsible for yesterday’s clash,” he said, adding that the goons did not spare him either. “I sustained injuries on my back, elbow and neck,” he said.

Palahara’s BJD MLA Rabi Naryan Pani said: “Top police officials and their relatives are in the transportation business. Many influential persons were also responsible for the incident. A thorough inquiry should be held.”

Reacting to the MLA’s arrest, leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh said it was unfortunate that the police picked up an MLA while the Assembly was in session.

“We demand a thorough inquiry into the role of influential people behind the incident,” he said.

Tension continues in the Talcher coalfileds area with coal production being badly hit. Power production in the three units of the National Thermal Power Corporation was stopped due to short supply of coal.

The corporation’s 3,000MW-power plant at Kaniha was forced to shut down three of its 500MW units and is operating another three only partially. The power plant supplies power to 17 states, including Odisha.

Executive director of the Kaniha power plant V.B. Fednavis said: “We had to shut down three out of six 500MW units in the plant as we were unable to get coal in the past two days following a strike at Talcher coalfields. Normally, we draw about 55,000 tonnes of coal per day from Talcher coalfield to run our six units. As we have no stock of coal, we were forced to close the units.”

In another development, distress calls have also come from Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board as its functioning is likely to be severely affected because of coal shortage. The strike has also hit the operations of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited.

The district administration has deployed 14 platoons of the police to maintain law and order in the coalfield area.