Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The Kendrapara Police on Friday arrested as many as 24 people on charges of causing widespread damage to public property during a violent protest against the district administration over the proposed drinking water project on Kharasrota river at Bharigada under Rajkanika block.

Hundreds of protestors under the banner of Kharasrota Banchao Sangram Samiti (KBSS) had clashed with the police on Thursday while holding a rally to protest against the project. The agitated protestors had also damaged vehicles, machineries and earthmovers belonging to the firm which has been awarded the contract for the project. Some of the agitators even leaked the diesel tankers, police said.

“As many as 24 persons have been arrested for violating the prohibitory orders clamped under Section 144 of CrPC in three Panchayats bordering the project. A case has been registered against them with the Rajkanika police. All of them have been forwarded to court. We are looking for some more people who were involved in the vandalisation of public property,” said Kendrapara SP M Sandeep Sampat.

“More police forces have been deployed in the area and the project work will resume within next three to four days,” said Sampat.

Meanwhile, local residents alleged police excess and atrocities and warned the district administration to intensify their agitation further.

“Police forcefully took away more than 24 innocent people including some children at around 2 am this morning. They broke open the doors and windows of the houses of the poor people. They also hurled abuses at them and misbehaved with women members of their families,” alleged Convener of KBSS Debendra Sharma.

“We will now intensify our protest against the police excess and atrocities. The next course of our action will be decided following a meeting with the core members of KBSS today,” said Sharma.

On the other hand, the manager of the construction firm informed that as per a preliminary assessment, they have incurred losses to the tune of Rs 30-35 lakh due to the damages caused by the agitators.

It is worth mentioning that the proposed drinking water project is supposed to be implemented by drawing water from the Kharasrota river. Locals under the banner of Kharasrota Banchao Sangram Samiti have been opposing the mega drinking water project for the last two years claiming that it will render their farmlands barren as the barrage water will be diverted to two districts for drinking purpose.