Crime Branch probe ordered into Dhenkanal elephant deaths

Bhubaneswar/Dhenkanal: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday ordered a Crime Branch probe into the death of seven elephants due to electrocution near Kamalanga village under Sadar range in Dhenkanal district late on Friday night.

Expressing deep concern over the incident, the CM further ordered the concerned authorities to take appropriate action in case of any criminal negligence.

“As this is a sensitive issue, SP will personally visit the spot and will initiate a detailed probe. All aspects including lapses, negligence of the officials and under which circumstances such an incident happened will be probed,” said Crime Branch ADG Santosh Upadhyay.

Upadhyay further informed, a four-member team headed by a DSP has already left for the spot.

Opposition parties on the other hand blamed callous attitude of Odisha government for such tragic incident.

In a tweet, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched a scathing attack on the Odisha government for the lapses and lack of coordination between forest and electricity department which is resulting in the loss of forests and wildlife in the State.

Refuting such allegations, the ruling BJD advised the Union minister to concentrate at the centre.

“The state government is performing its duties properly and stringent action will be taken against the officials those who will be found guilty after a detailed probe,” said BJD spokesperson Pratap Deb.

On the other hand, taking stern action against the officials responsible for the mishap, the Forest & Environment, and the Energy department dismissed one official and suspended six others for dereliction of duty.

Three officials of the Forest & Environment Department including Dhenkanal Range officer Prasanna Kumar Biswal, Forester of Meramundali section Prabhakar Rana and forest guard of Meramundali section Girish Chandra Dehury have been suspended, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) sources said.

Similarly, the electricity department sacked one officer and suspended three others in connection with the incident.

Sanjay Kumar Mohanty, DEE (Contract)/JM (Ele), Electrical Section, Meramundali has been terminated from his post and replaced by Pradeep Kumar Pradhan, JM (Ele), Electrical section, Talcher.

Besides, Naresh Chandra Pattnaik, GM/(Ele)/Circle Manager, EC, Dhenkanal, Artatrana Nayak, SDO of Chainpal and Phiroj Panda, Lineman-B of Electrical Section, Meramundali have been suspended by the electricity department.

Earlier, the Forest department had blamed the electricity department for the sheer negligence that led to the tragic death of seven elephants.

In a press release, the PCCF alleged that the Dhenkanal DFO had written to the Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha (CESU) last year to rectify the sagging 11 KV lines in the region but no action was taken in this regard.

According to reports, a herd of 13 elephants had strayed into the region in search of food a few days ago. The jumbos were reportedly passing through a farmland near Kamalanga on Friday night when they came in contact with the high voltage live wire pulled at a height of 5 feet above the ground that was laid for the construction of railway tracks in the area.