HC puts interim stay on Rourkela civic polls

Cuttack: In what could be a major setback to municipal corporation status aspirations of Rourkela, the Orissa High Court has ordered an interim stay on poll notification for the creation of the corporation body. The court delivered the order while hearing a petition filed by two gram panchayats – Jagada and Jhartarang.

According to petitioners’ counsel Naresh Chandra Jena, as per constitutional provisions, areas identified as scheduled areas cannot be included in a municipal corporation. In this case, despite Jagada and Jhartarang panchayats being scheduled areas, they have been included in the proposed Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC). Based on it, the court has ordered an interim stay on the notification to hold civic elections there

A hue and cry ensued both in Rourkela and in the Assembly after government decided to upgrade the municipality in a corporation. Alleging violation of Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act for formation of RMC, a 12-hour bandh was observed on March 18th in the Steel City by tribals as a mark of protest under the banner of ‘Mula Adivasi Milita Manch’ pressing for the demand to exclude the two gram panchayats.

On the same day, two Congress law makers Prafulla Majhi and Jogesh Singh sat on dharna in the well of the house protesting against the alleged violation of the PESA Act, 1996.

They alleged that the State government had merged two gram panchayats in the newly formed RMC without consulting the tribal residents of the area.

“The State government notification on the formation of RMC is a clear violation of the provisions of PESA. The government included the tribal panchayats without consulting the locals,” said Congress chief whip Tara Prasad Bahinipati.

Senior Congress member Prafulla Majhi said, “As per the provision, the government must take views of the tribal people before including their area under the RMC jurisdiction. They should conduct gram sabha and take people’s opinion whether they want to be part of the municipal corporation.”

Demanding a detailed debate on the matter, leader of opposition Narasingha Mishra alleged that the government used police force against tribals who opposed its notification indicating inclusion of two tribal dominated gram panchayats in the RMC area.