Bandh in Bolangir against irrigation project

Bolangir: Normal life was paralysed here on Friday during a bandh called to demand immediate implementation of the Lower Suktel irrigation project in drought-prone Bolangir district, foundation stone for which was laid 11 years ago.

Shops, business establishments, schools, colleges, banks and offices remained closed at the district headquarter town during the shut-down called by Bolangir Nagarik Committee and backed by over 27 different organisations and citizen bodies, police sources said.

Vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt and roads wore a deserted look though train services remained unaffected during the bandh, supported by most political parties including Congress and BJP.

Though the ruling BJD did not support the bandh, many of its workers and supporters backed the shutdown.

Every section of the society extended spontaneous support to the bandh as it was in the interest of the people.

The project, seen as a boon for the drought-prone district, was yet to take off though Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had laid foundation stone for it on November 24, 2001.

Meanwhile, seven members of Lower Suktel Action Committee (LSAC) had started hunger strike agitation demanding immediate implementation of the project. "Our agitation has got support from 27 organisations including political parties," said LSAC leader Arun Kumar Sahu.

The project cost which was only Rs 217.13 crore and targeted to be completed by 2004, has meanwhile escalated to Rs 1100 crore.

The project after completion would irrigate 31,830 hectare of agricultural land, sources said. "The state government is not sincere towards Bolangir," alleged BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo.

"Only four per cent of land is irrigated in Bolangir. Therefore, the proposed project will certainly help in reducing poverty in the district," said leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh of Congress.