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Mrunal Manmay Dash

      

The soon-to-be-displaced locals of the ambitious Samalei Project in the vicinity of the famous Samaleswari Temple in Sambalpur resorted to jal Satyagrah on Thursday demanding details of the rehabilitation plans prepared for them by the government.

The unique protest was joined by both male and female agitators and was staged at Balibandha Ghat in the Mahanadi river that flows by the western Odisha city of Sambalpur.

One of the protesters alleged that the local administration never disclosed their eviction and rehabilitation plans. “We want to know if they will force us to leave our homes which come under the project. If that is the case, where do they plan to rehabilitate and what amount will they give us in compensation” he asked.

“People are in panic and the government officials have turned a deaf ear to our questions. Some officials are even threatening us to leave our places within a month,” he alleged.

Similarly, a woman protester at the Balibandha Ghat said, “Mahanadi river and Goddess Samaleswari are the identity of western Odisha. We take a vow today to continue fighting for our rights with the government till our last breath.”

It is pertinent to mention here that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced a redevelopment project worth Rs 200 crore for the shrine of Goddess Samaleswari in Sambalpur in February this year.

Under the redevelopment plan, four heritage gates will be built on the four sides of the temple and other infrastructure facilities like parking slots, vending zones, toilets will be set up near the temple for the welfare of thousands of devotees and tourists who throng the shrine every day.

Apart from that, housing projects for servitors of the temple are also on the anvil while the government has also planned to construct a 30-meter-wide road to connect the temple zone with the Mahanadi river bank. The road will help in the daily conduct of Mahanadi Alati rituals for the presiding Goddess.

The government has also earmarked to set up a scheme under the 'Samaleswari Temple Area Management & Local Economy Initiatives’ for the development of 108 acres of area around the temple.

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