BHUBANESWAR — Bhubaneswar has yet to recover from the shock of the alleged molestation of school girls and a few women teachers by Congress (I) supporters at the Indira Gandhi Park inaugurated by the Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, on October 31.

With strict instructions from the director of public instruction (DPI) to every school, more than 6000 school boys and girls were mustered by the state government to provide colour to the function At the end of the function a large number of school girls and some women teachers became the victims of Congress(I) supporters. ‘They allegedly indulged in mass molestation which has cost the party dearly in terms of popularity and acceptability.

At a press conference the leader of the opposition, Mr. Biju Pat naik, condemned the incident in the strongest possible terms and demanded immediate resignation of the Chief Minister, Mr. J. B. Patnaik, the Education Minister, Mr. Jadunath Dash Mohapatra, and the DPI on moral grounds “for they have brought disgrace to the state.”

The state Janata Dal has decided to launch the second phase of the “Orissa Bachao” movement from next month.

The only reaction of the Congress (I) leaders here has been to deny the episode. Privately, many of them are ashamed of their party workers’ behaviors. The Education Minister at a hurriedly called press conference denied that there was any molestation harassment of school girls.

Dubbing the allegations of Mr. Biju Patnaik as “most unfortunate,” he took the plea that the governmental agencies had not received any formal complaint from parents or girls themselves. Even when there was no formal inquiry, the minister said that Mr. Biju Patnaik’s charges had not been confirmed by a “government inquiry.”

The Chief Minister has not officially reacted. He is said to be very sore and angry with some of the journalists who dug up the story after interviewing many parents.

The newspaper Sambad owned by the chief minister’s son-in-law, Mr. Saumya Ranjan Patnaik, came out with a scathing editorial denouncing the journalists and opposition leaders. The argument was how come only these people could see and detect mass molestation?

‘The state Congress (I) bosses are award of the tremendous embarrassment to the party the incident has caused, in private some of them have expressed, anguish and helplessness. The pomp and fanfare with which the controversial Indira Gandhi Park was inaugurated by Mr. Gandhi, the scramble between the Chief Minister and the PCC-I president for taking credit in making the function a success and the supposed moral boost to the party due to the Prime Minister’s visit have all vanished into thin air. And, Mr. Biju Patnaik has called upon parents not to allow their children to visit the Indira Gandhi Park and his party has pledged that the event of its coming to power it will either bulldoze the statue of Indira. Gandhi or shift it to another location.

The only comforting factor for the Chief Minister after the Prime Minister’s visit is that for the time there is no more talk of his immediate replacement by Mrs. Naudila Satpatld. However, political observers feel that a change will come just before the elections. The argument is that the High Command is convinced that with Mr. J. B. Patnaik as the leader during the polls, the party doesn’t have much hope.

The continuing differences between him and the PCC-I president have only compounded the problem of Mr. J. B. Patnaik. Increasingly, he is resorting to costly gimmicks like the Indira Gandhi Park and the sudden beautification program of Bhubaneswar’s.

Article extracted from this publication >> December 2, 1988