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Vikash Sharma

Rayagada: Political circles are now heating up in Odisha over the seizure of precious gemstones worth around Rs 1.5 crore in Rayagada with the Congress alleging involvement of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the illegal trade.

The Congress has alleged that the accused Jitendra Kumar Behera, who has been arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) of the Crime Branch, has links with State SC/ST Development Minister Jagannath Saraka.

The Rayagada unit of Congress has levelled allegations that the entire illegal trade and transportation of unfinished gemstones in the district was being carried out with support of Saraka.

The Congress has released several photographs of the prime accused Jitendra with several BJD leaders including Saraka.

“The STF had seized over 150 kilograms of gemstones from the house of Jitendra Behera who has links with Minister Jagannath Saraka. Hence, Odisha government should expel Saraka and take exemplary action against those involvement in the theft of minerals,” said Durga Prasad Panda, President Rayagada district Congress Committee.

Panda further alleged that the BJD leaders are involved in the exploitation of minerals and other resources in the district. The State government should take immediate action against the leaders or else the party will be forced to launch an agitation, Panda added.

Responding to the allegations, Minister Jagannath Saraka said, “A lot of people from the constituency meet me and take photographs with me every day. How will I know what activities each and every people is involved in.”

Earlier, based on a reliable input, the Crime Branch STF had conducted a raid in Rayagada and seized unpolished precious gemstones on Monday. The STF had arrested Jitendra Behera after gemstones weighing over 150 kilograms worth nearly Rs 1.5 crore were seized from his residence.

As per the probe agency, huge quantity of unfinished precious stones like Rubby, Panna, Black diamond , Cast eye, Moon Stone, Amethyst etc. weighing 153 kg, One Toyota Glanaz car and other incriminating materials were seized from Jitendra’s possession.

“A case has been registered at Rayagada Police Station for necessary legal action. This refers to Rayagada Police Station Case No. 390/ 2020 U/s 379/411 IPC r/w. Sec. 12 of Odisha Mineral Prevention of Theft, Smuggling and other ( Unlawful Activities Act), 1988. Investigation is on,” said STF in a statement.

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