The mishap took place in less than a month of CM’s address at the Odisha Police Duty Meet, on October 5, 2013, where he said
that his government had initiated several steps to ensure enhanced security to
women in the state. In the same event, Naveen Patnaik also said, “Investigation
of crime is one of the most important responsibilities of police. Such
investigation has to be conducted efficiently and effectively. Police has to be
impartial, firm and prompt in handling crime and criminals.”
fatal crimes against women in last few years and the latest one in particular
make clean examples of how efficiently and promptly the whole system works to
ensure enhanced security to women in Odisha.
She dared and died for it
As harassment by School Inspector
Netrananda Dandasena gradually became unbearable, Itishree dared to
register complain against him. She lodged her complain with local police
on July 18, 2013; informed the district Collector and Superintendent of
Police (SP) about her complaint. She also wrote to higher authorities
including the Police DG, Women’s Commission and, even, the Chief
Minister’s Office about the nonchalant attitude of local police and
administration in her case. She informed everyone about the threat to
her life from Netrananda Dandasena against whom she lodged the
complaint. But all to no avail. Nobody heeded to her complaint and
repeated letters till the 27 years old teacher was set afire in the
school hostel she lived in.
With 90% of the body burnt, Itishree was
shifted to a corporate hospital where she took her last breath on
November 1, 2013.
Actions were started only after the victim
teacher was torched. An Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of Tikiri police
station and the accused school inspector were suspended. The DI of
schools was also suspended by the Raygada district collector for not
taking action against the accused School Inspector Dandasena. On
November 05, 2013, four government officials including the above three
officials and the In-charge Officer of Tikiri Police Station were
dismissed from their services.
After death of the victim, Odisha
government also ordered an investigation by the crime branch into the
case of sexual assault and murder of the contractual woman teacher.
But what still remains unanswered is – why
after death? Why it didn’t happen when victim was very much alive and
was desperately knocking all possible doors seeking action to ensure her
Everybody knew, nobody responded
She lodged an FIR at local police station,
approached the district administration, wrote to the women commission,
Police DG and the CM’s Office with the hope that somebody at some point
would take her case sympathetically and initiate action.
Coming across the allegations made by
Itishree, the Collector of Raygada district, S B Padhi, instituted a two
member inquiry committee to inquire into the case and give a report. The
committee headed by District Social Welfare Officer Sanghamitra Kanungo
submitted its report in the end of August where the school inspector was
held guilty. The committee suggested immediate disciplinary action
against him. Keeping the safety of the victim teacher in view, transfer
of Itishree to another school outside Kashipur block was also suggested
in the report.
But no action was initiated on basis of
the report submitted by the committee. What and who stopped the district
authorities from taking action immediately is yet to be answered.
The complaint was not given any importance
even at higher levels. The question comes here is, why did the
authorities remain silent about the complaint lodged by the school
teacher? Why action was not taken immediately against the school
inspector? How the women’s commission too opted to remain silent on
this? Who was protecting the School Inspector? How the CMO too missed
it? Or, under pressure from someone, did the CMO intentionally kept the
CM in dark on this particular case? But authorities are mum to give an
answer to all these obvious questions.
When the Collector, SP, DGP and officials
in charge of the women’s commission and the CMO are more in doubt for
opting to inaction in the case, suspension of officials of local police
station and mass education department seems to be an eyewash attempt to
keep the senior police and administrative officials safe.
While stepping up campaign against Chief
Minister Naveen Patnaik and his government over the death of lady
teacher Itishree Pradhan, opposition parties in the state held BJD MP
from Koraput Jayram Pangi responsible for police inaction and
In a statement, claimed to be given before
death, Itishree also blamed the Chief Minister, administration and local
political leaders for what happened to her. In her statement, as aired
by a local TV Channel in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday evening, October 5,
2013, Itishree said that Netrananda Dandasena was a favourite of Koraput
MP (Member of Parliament) Jayram Pangi.
However, political links behind such
crimes against women is not new to the state of Odisha. Political
involvement in crimes against women became issue since 1980 when
Chhabirani Mohapatra, a woman journalist, was raped and murdered.
Fingers were also raised against senior
BJD leaders in cases like a speaker of Odisha State Assembly assaulting
a lady martial; rape and murder of Babina, a girl from Pipili; and the
murder of an Ayush doctor Madhabilata in Puri. While former speaker
Maheswar Mohanty had to lose his post for alleged involvement in the
case of assaulting a lady martial, senior leader and then the
agriculture minister Pradip Maharathi had to be sacrificed in Babina
rape and murder case of Pipili in order to keep the face of BJD and the
government led by it clean.
As the Urban Local Body polls are to be
held in western Odisha this month and as the party is preparing to face
the general polls early next year, such a face saving action from top
BJD leadership cannot be overruled completely. However, who becomes the
sacrificial goat this time is to be seen.
Challenge before the Government
Soon after the death of the victim
teacher, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared an ex-gratia of 10 lakh
rupees as he did in a few previous cases like the Pipili rape and murder
case and the Mahakalpada murder case where rejection of love appeal
resulted in torching and subsequent death of a minor girl.
“Announcement of compensation has become a
trend for this government leading one to believe that the Chief Minister
is trying to safeguard the alleged BJD leaders by bribing the surviving
members of the victims’ family,” said Janamorcha Chief and former BJD
leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra.
“Compensation is no wrong in this case
because victim was the only earning member of the family. But it’s not
all that the government should do. We need some strong laws to deal with
such cases,” said N A Shah Ansari, an activist and founder of community
radio station - Radio Namaskar.
According to NCRB, rate of crime against
women in Odisha, in 2012, remained 58.79 per one lakh population of
women in the state against a national average of 41.74. The state
registered 31% increase, in compare to 2011 figures, in the number of
cases of rape, the highest among the larger states of India.
So the challenges are enormous. Instead of
keeping the safety of women limited to slogans and programme names, the
state government needs to act strongly and promptly to stop crime and
ensure enhanced security to women in the state.