Cong-BJD fight over tribal causes

Bhubaneswar: With ruling BJD trying to boost its "pro-tribal" image by fielding P A Sangma as Presidential candidate, opposition Congress today alleged that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik`s hands are red with blood of at least 25 tribals who have been gunned down by police during the last 12 years in the state.

"At least 25 tribals, including 14 in Kalinganagar in Jajpur district, have been killed in police firing during 12 years of BJD rule. Neither Patnaik nor his tribal candidate Sangma visited Kalinganagar to console the families whose members were killed in police firing," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) chief spokesman Narasingha Mishra said.

While appealing to political parties Patnaik on the other hand, described Sangma as a "distinguished" tribal leader hailing from North-East and belonged to the minority community. "Our party was first to name Sangma on May 17 as he belogned to tribal community," Patnaik said.

A quarter of the state`s population is tribal," Patnaik told reporters while projecting Sangma as the "best" candidate for the post of President of India. Rejecting Congress allegations, Patnaik said his government during last 12 years have launched a series of tribal welfare schemes like Biju KBK Yojana, Biju Kandhamal Yojana, Biju Gajapati Yojana besides introducing Rs 2 kg rice targeting the tribal population.

This apart, Patnaik claimed that his government had also taken several steps to encourage tribals students, partucilarly girls, to education. Mishra`s statement came few days after union tribal affairs minister V K Deo in a letter to the Chief Minister asking to allow tribals to gather bamboo in forests. Deo in his letter said that the tribals in the state are harassed by forest department officials.