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Extortion by gangsters affects irrigation projects

Statesman News Service | Kendrapara |

Implementation of Irrigation projects in Odisha’s Kendrapara district are being adversely affected following extortion and intimidation by gangsters active in the area. Quality of construction is also being heavily compromised as the disturbing trend tender-fixing of irrigation projects has reared its ugly head in Kendrapara, according to a report by the state water resources department.

With mafias ruling the roost, terrorising the firms engaged in construction of projects, the department has urged the DGP Dr R P Sharma to intervene in the matter.

The fact that a known gangster is calling the shots, rigs tender and extorts contractors is well known to one and all in the district including ruling BJD leaders and the district police.

But the water resources department which is directly under Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has now draw attention of the DGP. “It has been brought to the notice that there is serious breach of law and order at several work sites in irrigation divisions of Kendrapara, Aul, Mahanadi North and Manijanga.

The criminals are threatening both the officials and contractors, badly affecting the progress of work”, stated the official letter to the DGP. Expressing helplessness at the state of affairs, the official letter by a senior bureaucrat of the department said “The antisocial elements are threatening contractors and officers of the water resources department. There are several instances of bombing at the work sites. The criminals are regularly visiting the work sites and are demanding huge sum as protection money”.

On 17 February, criminals had resorted to bomb throwing at four work sites to terrorize the contractors and to realise ransom. Few days back, machinery and equipment at a construction site were set on fire, the letter said.

Tenders in irrigation divisions in the district are being compromised under the threat from these lawbreakers. The crime mongers have resurfaced yet again threatening fair and transparent tender process and smooth execution of work.

Several officers and staffs working at the grass-root level are scared of the armed criminals that they are unwilling to put forth their grievances in writing, said the bureaucrat in his confidential note to the DGP.

Officials of irrigation division here confided here that police machinery is scared of the gangster. Even contractors who are victims of extortion confide that complaining to the police is futile and hence they keep mum.

The police knows everything, it does not act, hence there is no point in lodging a police complaint, said a contractor. Kendrapara-based crime syndicates are masterminding the tender-fixing in various construction division offices here.

Though the gangsters are now behind the bar, the lawbreakers were calling the shots and were carrying out the fixing racket from within the jail.

A section of contractors are believed to maintain close ties with gangsters and getting the contract awarded in their favour by coercive tactics. By establishing close nexus with gangsters, they are settling tenders of various government construction projects, the officials, requesting not to be named, said.

Kendrapara police however differ from the views. “About a dozen of bomb-throwing and extortion cases were reported last year. Police cracked all the cases by putting the criminals behind the bar. This year no such report has been registered.

Unless the complainant comes forward, we are not in a position to launch crackdown on the lawbreakers”, said Kendrapara SP, Dayandihi Gochayat.