Mrunal Manmay Dash

Odisha Energy Minister and Aul MLA, Pratap Keshari Deb had to face the wrath of the locals after a minor boy drowned to death in a boat mishap in Brahmani River on Thursday morning.

The boat en route to Keradagad of Rajnagar from Ekamania capsized in Brahmani with 30 passengers on board. While the body of a minor boy was recovered from the river, there is still no trace of the boatman who went missing after the mishap.

According to sources, when the first boat left the panchayat at around 6 am today, at least 30 passengers boarded it along with 8-10 bikes. After covering some distance, the boat capsized.

Following the incident, angry villagers kept the boy's body on the road and launched a protest. The irate locals gheraoed the Energy Minister and local MLA, Pratap Keshari Deb when he visited the spot.

“Our children risk their lives to appear for examinations, expecting mothers are deprived of proper healthcare because there is no bridge over the river. Today, a small boy lost his life. We want a bridge to be built over the Brahmani River immediately, otherwise, we will not let the authorities take the body,” said a local, Ranjita Behera.

Speaking about the incident, the Minister said, “They have lost a child and they are quite emotional now. I can understand their pain. That is why they are currently not in a condition to reason. However, we should not keep the body in the open for long otherwise it will start to decompose. As soon as we start the process as per the law, the family will get the compensation. I have been trying to complete the proposed bridge as soon as possible, but due to some issues with the tender, the work has not started yet,” the Minister said.

Later in the day, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced Rs 4 lakh compensation for the next of kin of the deceased and expressed his grief over the mishap.

It is pertinent to mention here that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik laid the foundation stone for a bridge over Brahmani River in 2017. But the bridge is yet to be completed.

Alleging sheer apathy by the government, former Rajnagar MLA, Alekh Jena said, “This is an unfortunate incident. This place is the confluence of two panchayats; Ekamania in Aul and Keradagad in Rajnagar. People of Ekmania depend solely on Keradagad for their daily activities. When I was the MLA, I finalized the tender of the Ekamanai-Keradagad bridge. Had the bridge been completed, the boy would not have lost his life today.”

“This is a very small bridge and the two opposite banks of the river are at a stone’s throw away. So where is the problem in building the bridge?” asked Jena.

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