Odisha activist was murdered for fighting corruption: Activists
Abhimanyu Panda, 58, of Bataguda village in Baliguda town under Kandhamal district, was shot dead by two assailants on December 10 morning.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 02:06 IST
Odisha activists have alleged that RTI activist Abhimanyu Panda was murdered to silence him over his RTI applications into the alleged irregularities in tribal welfare funds and corruption in the distribution of PDS rice. They said police had failed to conduct a proper investigation and demanded a probe by a special investigation team.
Abhimanyu Panda, 58, of Bataguda village in Baliguda town under Kandhamal district, was shot dead by two assailants on December 10 morning while he was standing in front of his house. Police are yet to make any headway in the case.
A group of RTI activists who went on a fact-finding tour to Kandhamal on Friday said that Panda’s RTI applications exposing the government may have led to his killing.
“He had filed a series of RTI Applications and complaints to different authorities seeking inquiry into corruption and irregularities. It may have been the reason for his killing as it revealed many mega scams,” said Pradip Pradhan, convenor of Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhiyan.
The fact-finding team alleged that in October this year, Panda had complained about corruption, irregularities, misappropriation of fund and the long delay in construction of tribal girls hostel in Kandhamal College by a civil contractor. Though the Rs 3 crore contract was given in 2013-14, the hostel was still not complete after 4 years.
“In October this year, Panda had filed an RTI Application to the office of ITDA, Baliguda, seeking details of sanctioned project, materials used, bill and vouchers against payments for the tribal hostel. But he did not get details on the ground of non-availability. He then moved the First Appellate Authority over the denial of information and also lodged a complaint with the SC/ST Welfare department secretary over defalcation of Rs 70 lakh by the contractor,” said Pradhan. The fact-finding team alleged that a local BJD leader had come to meet Panda at his residence trying to force him to withdraw his RTI application and complaints.
The team also found that Panda led an anti-liquor movement and mobilised local people against granting license to open an IMFL “ON” Shop in Kamapada. “Orissa High Court gave an interim stay order in the case in 2018. The liquor license was held up by the Kandhamal district administration,” said the fact-finding team member Subash Mohapatra.
The committee also found that Panda as a member of the local Jagannath temple management committee in 2016 had managed to oust its president and secretary from the panel through a petition in the Orissa High Court.
He was also instrumental in getting an eviction order against the shop owners who were not paying rent for years together. “Panda had received life threats from the shop owners,” said Mohd Ziauddin, a member of the fact-finding committee.
Kandhamal district collector Brunda D refused to comment on the allegations of the RTI fact-finding team. Kandhamal SP Pratik Singh also did not comment on the course of investigation.