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Odishatv Bureau

Keonjhar: Construction work on the proposed bridge over Kusei river at Belabahali village in the district started amid tight security today after a two-day stand-off with villagers, who are opposing the bridge.

In a bid to ensure smooth progress of work, the police and the administration today tried to hold discussion with the villagers at the Inspection Bungalow (IB) near Ramachandrapur. The villagers had been informed beforehand to attend the meeting with the district collector, SP and other administrative officials. However, the locals did not turn up at the meeting venue.

Later, the administration started the work in the presence of sizeable contingent of security personnel. Apprehending trouble during the construction work, 20 platoons of force had been deployed on the construction site. But there was no hiccups today and work progressed smoothly. “Work has started today. 20 platoons of police have been deployed. We all, including five magistrates and superintendent of police and the sub-collector, are here to oversee the work,” Collector N Thirumala Nayak said.

Construction work was originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday but could not begin as the administration failed to mobilise adequate police force. Even after the required force was mobilised yesterday, work could not start as the villagers resisted the administration's move and demanded a halt to the work till hearing of the case by the High Court scheduled to be held on August 23.

Notably, the people of Belabahali and nearby villages had clashed with the police on July 7 last year while protesting the decision of the NHAI and the district administration to construct a new bridge on NH-215. Supporting the demand of the villagers, the Congress and the BJP had also protested the construction of the proposed bridge.

While the villagers were hopeful that their demand for relocation of the bridge site would be considered, a notification for construction of a new bridge by the Centre issued on June 15 this year has put paid to any such hope.

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