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House on boil, cry for Talcher probe

Bhubaneswar/Angul, Dec. 2: The Assembly today witnessed protests against Talcher MLA Braja Kishore Pradhan’s arrest with Congress members stalling the proceedings over the issue. They demanded probe by a House Committee.

Besides, Congress and BJP activists held protest rallies in Angul district headquarters town and Talcher as well.

A delegation of Congress MLAs met Pradhan, who was lodged in Talcher sub-jail since his arrest on Saturday night. Later, Pradhan was released on bail in the evening. He alleged that a “conspiracy was hatched” against him since he was fighting for the interest of casual workers.

Accusing police of framing him, Pradhan, who had been on fast in the jail, demanded a CBI probe into the episode.

As the coal mining and despatch from Talcher coalfields continued to halt on the fifth day today, power stations in and outside the state were starved of coal.

Only Kaniha and Lingaraj of eight open cast mines were operating.

“The worst affected is Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board, which normally takes at least eight rakes of coal from Talcher per day (each rake carries 3,500 tonnes). We could, however, manage to provide coal to 3,000MW NTPC power station in Kaniha near Talcher. But, there has been no coal despatch to any other power station in the states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bengal and Odisha itself,” said an official of Mahanadi Coafields Limited.

Opposition MLAs today alleged that the police had taken not prior permission from Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat before arresting Pradhan, thereby breaching the privilege of the House.

However, the Speaker said local police had informed him about the arrest and detention of Pradhan. According to the Assembly rules, his prior permission was not “required”, said Amat.

Soon after the Assembly met this morning, leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh raised the issue.

Stating that the police highhandedness under the present regime had surpassed the British days, Singh alleged that the cops had beaten up the MLA and arrested him from outside the Assembly on Saturday night. He wanted a probe by a House Committee into the incident.

However, he was not allowed to speak further as the Speaker proceeded with question-answer business. Enraged over this, Congress members rushed to the Well, shouting slogans against the alleged police excesses. Congress MLA Rama Chandra Kadam was seen standing on a chair in front of the Speaker’s podium to disrupt the proceedings.

Amat adjourned the proceedings after 13 minutes to restore normality. But as the unruly scenes prevailed, the House was adjourned till 3pm. An Opposition-sponsored adjournment motion on recent Bhushan steel plant mishap in Dhenkanal could not be taken up as the Opposition members boycotted the discussion.

When the House reassembled in the afternoon, the Opposition members demanded that all-party meet be convened and the House be adjourned to facilitate the meet. Conceding the demand, the Speaker adjourned the Assembly for the day.

In Talcher, hundreds of BJP workers, led by former MP Rudra Narayan Pani, took out a rally defying the prohibitory orders, demanding a judicial inquiry into the incident.

The Congress also staged a demonstration in front of the Angul district collector’s office, demanding Pradhan’s release and reinstatement of 131 retrenched contractual workers. A team of Congress MLAs and leaders also visited Pradhan in jail. “His arrest was totally unwarranted,” said senior Congress MLA S.S. Saluja.

Towards evening, Pradhan was released after he was granted bail by the additional district and sessions judge of Talcher. He also called off his fast.

Angul collector Ranjit Mahanty said: “We are making all out efforts at all levels to normalise the situation at Talcher.”