Odishatv Bureau

Rayagada: Over a hundred agitators staging dharna in front of the Therubali plant of Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys Ltd (IMFA) in Rayagada district since last three days ransacked machinery, lights and CCTV cameras installed near the gate of the plant today. They also hurled stones at the gate and attempted to break it open.

Surprisingly, the whole episode was carried out in presence of police, who were standing as mute spectators even after the agitators on Tuesday had submitted a memorandum to Rayagada SDPO threatening to intensify their agitation if their demands were not met by 2 PM today.

“We have decided to intensify the agitation in coming days and the district administration and police will be responsible for the outcome,” said Tribal leader, Jitu Jakasika.

"Police intervened and dispersed them. We ensured that they carry out their protests peacefully. We have also informed the IMFA management about the situation and asked them to hold discussions to resolve the matter," Rayagada SDPO, Rajkishore Das said.

"We are trying to ensure that the matter is resolved in a peaceful manner. I am in touch with the IMFA authorities and the protestors. However, there is yet to be any consensus," Additional Tehsildar of Kolnara, Gurucharan Mallha said.

Reacting to the incident, IMFA’s corporate affairs vice president and legal head, Ashok Behera stated "Protests instigated by outsiders have turned violent. Our machinery, lights & CCTVs have been ransacked due to which our employees are now even more terrorized. We want the district administration to intervene and restore normalcy."

As per reports, tribals of seven panchayats are staging a demonstration in front of the factory since the last three days demanding fulfillment of their 9-point charter of demands.

Sources informed that the protestors have locked up the main gate of the factory and are staging road blockades affecting the operations of the plant. The daily labourers who depend on the factory for their livelihood are also unable to enter, added sources.  Moreover, the agitators have also locked a nearby school and hospital.

Condemning the incident, BJP leader Jayaram Pangi in a Facebook post stated that "The plant is a 'rice bowl' for many and 'poisoning' it will not benefit anyone. He even challenged the agitators to visit Tikiri and fight against the anti-tribal policy of Utkal Alumina International Ltd (UAIL)."

Perpetrators should not take advantage of innocent tribals for vested interests and rather come out in open, added Pangi.