The Odisha Assembly on Monday witnessed repeated adjournments amid a ruckus by the Congress and BJP members over the rising incidents of minors’ rape across the state. As soon as the members assembled for the Question Hour, the opposition MLAs rushed to the well of the House, demanding a statement on the issue from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who also holds the Home department folio. The members raised slogans against the government and refused to get back to their seats despite repeated pleas by Speaker Pradip Kumar Amat.
Unable to run the House, Amat adjourned the proceedings till 11.30 am. When the House met again for the Zero Hour, Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra strongly criticised the state government over the recent incidents of sexual assault on minors. “When women, particularly minor girls, are being raped almost every day, the state government appears to be sleeping. The chief minister is not concerned over the heinous crimes and therefore did not issue a statement on the matter. The culprits are also not afraid of law,” Mishra said.
Alleging that the chief minister ducked queries of the opposition members, Mishra said, “Three days ago, when questions were raised in the assembly on women’s safety, he (CM) did not speak a word on the issue.” The chief minister does not know about the pressing problems being discussed in the House, he said. “He (CM) comes and reads out a written statement. The CM, in his statement, had mentioned that CCTV cameras are fitted in public places and women and children’s helpdesks have been opened in all police stations. Will a three-year-old girl approach a desk after being raped?” Mishra asked.
At least four minor girls were raped yesterday in the state, but the government is silent, the Congress leader said. “It is not that Odisha is the only state with cases of minors’ rape. Women and young girls are subjected to brutality everywhere and many of them are not getting justice. In the Kunduli rape case, the minor victim committed suicide for not getting justice. But the government is still silent,” he added. Echoing similar sentiments, BJP MLA Rabi Naik said the chief minister should clear his stance on the issue.
“We will not allow the House to function unless chief minister issues a statement on the rape incidents,” Naik told reporters outside the House. Senior BJD leader and government chief whip Amar Prasad Satpathy, however, criticised the opposition for stalling proceedings of the House. “We are all saddened by such incidents. Strong action will be taken against the culprits. A discussion over the issue could be held in the House during the Home department’s budget meeting on April 26,” Satpathy said.
A series of rape cases of minors have rocked the state in the past two weeks. A six-year-old girl was raped and strangulated on a school campus in Cuttack district two days ago. In another case, a minor boy was taken into custody on Sunday on the charge of raping a four-year old at Tikhiri village in Kendrapara district. The incidents came close on the heels of three more similar cases reported from Balasore district.