A dawn-to-dusk bandh demanding a separate Koshal state was observed on Saturday in 10 districts of western Odisha, disrupting normal life and vehicular movement.
The bandh call was given by the Joint Action Committee for Koshal State. The protesters were seen picketing in different places in western Odisha except Sambalpur.
The impact was felt in the Balangir district. All the business establishments were closed. An incident of violence was reported in the Balangir district where a meeting was underway to organise a badminton tournament from November 20. The protesters entered the hall and ransacked the tables and chairs.
Chairman of the Joint Action Committee, Pramod Mishra, said: “Our area has been neglected over the years. There has been no development here compared with the development in other parts of the state. The issue of development will be addressed only if a separate state is carved out.”
“We do require an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here. There is not a single medical facility for the treatment of cancer. Around 2 crore people live in western Odisha. What's wrong in demanding a separate state?” an activist said.
They also alleged that even though the Western Development Council was constituted 23 years back, its headquarters is still functioning from Bhubaneswar. “No steps are being taken to shift it from Bhubaneswar to Western Odisha,” the members of the Joint Action Committee said.
Paschim Odisha Chhatra Sangathan (POCS), a student organisation from western Odisha based in Delhi, said: “We are steadfastly committed to advocating for the advancement of the people of Paschim Odisha (western Odisha) specifically, and Odisha in general. POCS is not connected to any political party and is still in its formative stages. As this particular protest might have been planned by certain politically oriented groups and parties for a political win ahead of the 2024 general election, POCS is not yet in a position to support or endorse it. That being said, POCS represents the autonomy and diversity of opinions of its members and does not impose any limitations on their personal choices.”
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday approved Rs 296.50 crore projects for Instream Storage Structure projects for the Balangir district.