Shutdown against forest fire in Similipal National Park

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Baripada (Odisha), Mar 10 (PTI) A shutdown called by a local outfit agsinst Odisha government's alleged failure to control the forest fire at Simlipal National Park evoked partial response in tribal Mayurbhanj district on Wednesday.

The forest fire at the national park, a major biosphere in Asia, had broken out two weeks ago and is yet to be fully doused.

A major portion of the national park, which spreads over 2,750 sq km in Mayurbhanj district, has been affected by the fire. But the government has claimed that there was no great loss either to wildlife or people, the protestors said.

The nine-hour shutdown by Bhanja Sena was openly supported by the CPI, Kaptipada Bikas Manch and Jago Mayurbhanj organisations. The Congress and BJP also expressed solidarity with it.

General people also extended support to the shutdown, which was observed from 6 am to 3pm.

As a result government offices, courts, banks, post offices, colleges, shops and business establishments, petrol pumps remained closed at the district headquarters town of Baripada and three other sub-divisional headquarters at Udala, Karanjia and Rairangpur.

Vehicular traffic was off the roads. Trucks carrying goods did not ply on Kolkata-Chennai national highway 49 due to blockades by activists of the Bhanja Sena, who are mostly tribal youths and students.

However, movement of vehicular traffic was seen at Karanjia.

No untoward incident was reported during the shutdown, the police said.

The local outfit blamed the authorities of Simlipal National Park and Tiger Reserve and demanded the removal of its senior officers for not taking appropriate action at the proper time which allowed the fire to spread.

The activists of Bhanja Sena, led by its founder Kalinga Kesari Jena and president Pintu Maity staged demonstrations in different places.

Meanwhile, members of the youth and student wings of the ruling BJD joined the villages and forest officials in extinguishing the fire in the national park during the day.

Congress spokesperson accused the Naveen Patnaik government of misleading people by claiming that the forest fire is under control and said that pictures of NASA show that 30 per cent of the fire is still 'active'. PTI COR AAM SBN KK KK KK