Keonjhar: An indefinite economic blockade from Sunday in Orissa's mining district of Keonjhar, demanding solution to local problems, has severely affected mineral transportation in the state.
Local residents, led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, have been demanding introduction of a local train and repair of the National Highway 215.
The highway, known as the lifeline of the mining belt, has turned into a virtual death trap full of potholes and ditches, leading to frequent accidents. Local administration has declared as many as 15 narrow bridges on this road as weak, and these are yet to be repaired or replaced.
More than 20,000 ore-loaded trucks ply on the highway everyday, local BJP leader Sukeshi Oram told reporters.
"The trucks transport ore to Paradeep port, factories of different steel companies in Orissa, and companies in other states," Sdukeshi Oram said.
Railway tracks have been built in the region and goods trains carrying ore are already running on them. However, the government is yet to introduce a passenger train, she said.
If the road is not repaired immediately and the government does not introduce a passenger train, the BJP's blockade will continue indefinitely, she said.
Hundreds of local residents Sunday blocked roads and stopped movement of trucks in various places of the district, a senior district police official told reporters. Protestors also stopped at Barbil a goods train going to Paradeep port carrying iron ore, the official said.
Economic activities have come to a standstill, he said. The loss of revenue in one day due to the strike would be millions of rupees, "but we are yet to assess the exact loss", he added.
At district headquarter of Keonjhar, about 225 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, a group of BJP leaders led by district BJP President Murali Sharma launched a relay hunger strike. Keonjhar is one of the premier mineral producing districts in the country, with extensive deposits of iron and manganese ores and chromites. The district also has deposits of other minerals like quartzite, bauxite, gold and limestone.