Relief for Orissa tribals | india | Hindustan Times
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Relief for Orissa tribals

THE AIR was crackling with tension at Kalinga Nagar hours before Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited Bir Bhumi, the site of tribal killings on Wednesday. Angry tribals blocked the road to the mass cremation site, allowing only a few vehicles to pass. By the end of her visit, the blockades were gone, the anger had lessened.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 02:07 IST

THE AIR was crackling with tension at Kalinga Nagar hours before Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited Bir Bhumi, the site of tribal killings on Wednesday. Angry tribals blocked the road to the mass cremation site, allowing only a few vehicles to pass. By the end of her visit, the blockades were gone, the anger had lessened.

The Congress chief placed a wreath at Bir Bhumi and assured the livid tribals that justice would be done. Home minister Shivraj Patil, who accompanied the Congress president, announced a central assistance of Rs 5 lakh to each of the bereaved families.

The Congress, Sonia said, would also pitch in with Rs 1 lakh each to the families of the deceased. The state government had already announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed in police firing.

Local tribal leaders submitted a memorandum to the UPA chairperson, demanding relief for those displaced by mega projects. Patil promised to look into the demands. Expressing grief at the tragedy, Sonia said, "We are with the tribals and we will see that they get justice. Since the time of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the Congress has always fought for the cause of the tribals."

Sonia could be seen mingling with the residents, breaching the security barricades to console families of those who perished in police firing. The personal touch seemed to have worked.

Laxmidhar Soy, whose 25-year-old brother Bhagaban was killed in the police firing, said, "As Sonia Gandhi personally met us, I think the government at the Centre will do something for us. My brother can no longer be with us anymore, but we have to make a new beginning."