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Mob thwarts eviction drive Armed squatters gherao officials

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 25: Officials of the development authority’s enforcement wing had gone to assess the condition of an encroached government plot in Chandrasekharpur, but armed squatters forced them to return without completing their job today.

Eyewitnesses said nearly 1,000 people, armed with batons and traditional weapons, surrounded officials of the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and did not allow them to proceed further.

The officials were on their way to assess the condition of a 20-acre plot, which had been encroached upon.

“We were told that many residents of Chandrasekharpur and Patia were fraudulently selling the land to people for Rs 5,000 or 10,000 and a slum-like settlement was about to start there. Police had assured us to provide three platoons of force. But in the end, they gave only one,” said BDA’s enforcement officer Debaprasad Dash.

“We, along with officials of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and the general administration department, waited at Chandrasekharpur police station. But as the rest of the force did not arrive, the eviction drive could not take place,” said Dash.

He said they had been to the spot to assess the situation with only four personnel from Odisha State Striking Force (OSSF).

“The people mistook OSSF men for policemen and rushed towards us threateningly with weapons. So we had to return,” said the officer.

Municipal corporation sources said since adequate police force was not available and intelligence reports indicated that the people were armed, officials of other departments did not go to the spot. But the BDA officials went ahead to assess the situation and they were surrounded by the mob at the spot.

“We could provide only one platoon of police force because other personnel were deployed for matriculation examination at 18 centres under this police station. Besides, more personnel were deployed for patrolling near banks and other installations along with VIP movement and other events organised in the city,” said inspector in charge of Chandrasekharpur police station Ravi Satpathy.

“We are ready to provide them force when they are available. But there should be proper co-ordination when it relates to slums, because there the mob easily turns violent,” said assistant commissioner of police Fagua Singh.

This is the second time the BDA could not carry out an eviction drive due to the unavailability of police forces.

Earlier on January 20, the authorities could not demolish several illegally constructed temples, because the police did not arrive despite the authorities waiting at the spot for hours.

The police had cited non-availability of forces at that time too.