A scuffle broke out between the police and local people at Odisha’s Dhenakanal district over felling of trees by the administration to facilitate construction of a brewery, prompting Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to halt the project and order a probe.
On Saturday, 17 November, locals came out in large numbers to protest against the administration’s move to cut down over 950 trees for the brewery project of a private firm, even as the administration promised to plant twice as much saplings to compensate for the loss, an official said.
Also Read : BJP Fails to Keep Its Promises: Naveen Patnaik
The agitators, mostly women, had clung to tree trunks in their attempt to stop the felling of trees, leading to a tussle between them and the police officials who were deployed in the area to ensure smooth operations, the official said.
The locals claimed that they have been nurturing the trees for decades to create a community-developed forest, the official added.
“As many as 13 protesters, including three women, were taken into custody as a ‘preventive measure’ and later released on bail.”Santosh Nayak, Superintendent of Police, Dhenkanal
An official at the chief minister’s office (CMO) said: “Patnaik issued an order on Sunday, 18 November, to stop the cutting down of trees in Balarampur area of Dhenkanal. He has also asked the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC-Northern Division) to conduct an inquiry into the incident.”
As the area was not notified as ‘forest belt’, it was declared as an ‘industrial estate’, Dhenkanal Sub-Collector Pitambar Samal said.
“A forest patch, spread over 12.5 acres, was identified by Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), the nodal agency for facilitating land for industries, for setting up the beer unit,” he explained.
The Chief Minister, on 3 November, laid the foundation for 14 industrial units, including the beer plant, through video conferencing from Bhubaneswar.
He came under fire on Sunday, with opposition parties questioning his intentions behind sanctioning the project.
BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo accused the BJD government of adopting “double standards”.
“On one hand, the state government has decided to plant trees along riverbanks, and on the other, it ordered the cutting down of a large number of valuable trees, he said.
Mocking Patnaik’s move to order an inquiry, Congress MLA Narasingha Mishra said that the “operation was illegal” as no proper procedure was followed before cutting down the trees.
“What is there to investigate now? The chief minister could have easily found out the facts through his officials. Moreover, how is that the operation was carried out without his knowledge?” he asked.
(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)