Cassian Baliarsingh

An investigation by two RTI activists has revealed alleged involvement of Pratap Keshari Deb, Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises of Odisha, in the smuggling of sand from Kharasrota River, a tributary of Brahmani River.

The minister has been accused of smuggling sand through suction pumps from Kharasrota River directly to his palace in Aul of Kendrapara district.

The matter came to the fore after two RTI activists brought the matter to the notice of Chief Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board and Odisha State Pollution Conrol Board, Deputy Director General of Forests and District collector, Kendrapara through a mail.

The RTI activists have also accused the minister of illegally encroaching Kharasrota river land since 2020 and running illegal brick-kilns.

Alaya Samantaray, RTI activist said, “Minister Pratap Deb has fitted suction pumps to smuggle sand from Kharasrota river to his palace. This has been going on since 2020. He is also running illegal brick-kilns in his land.”

“We have tried to bring the matter to the notice of Tehsildar, SP, DGP, Collector and even CM Naveen Patnaik. If no steps are taken in next 15 days, we will go to NGT, High Court or even Supreme Court. We have all the satellite images as proof,” said another RTI activist Pratap Mohanty.

When contacted, local tehsildar Tapan Kumar Senapati said, “We are not saying there is no sand smuggling. We will probe into the matter and take necessary action.” 

Similarly, Salepur MLA Prashant Behera has been accused of being involed in the killing of a person over illegal sand mining in Tangi area of Cuttack. The deceased Happy and his associate Dipak Behera were attacked by a few people, believed to be aides of MLA Behera.

The BJP has alleged that the accused are very close to Salepur MLA Prashant Behera. At a presser, former Salepur MLA and BJP leader Prakash Behera alleged that all the illegal sand mining activities are being orchestrated at the behest of MLA Prashant Behera.

When contacted Choudwar SDPO, Satyabrat Lenka said, “Many other persons are involved. We have identified three more persons. The FIR has been registered against five persons. Our investigation is underway and we will take appropriate steps if we get information and clues regarding the involvement of any other person.”