Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked the police to trace the grandson of INA veteran Laxmi Indira Panda, who had come here along with his parents for the felicitation of freedom fighters’ families by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 16.
Modi during his visit here for the BJP national executive had on April 16 felicitated family members of 16 freedom fighters - 15 who had participated in the Paika Rebellion of 1817 and one a member of the INA.
Indian National Army Captain Laxmi Indira Panda’s son Surendra, daughter-in-law Sujata and grandson Babuli had attended the felicitation at the Raj Bhavan.
While returning home to Jeypore in Koraput district, Panda’s family got separated from each other at the busy Bhubaneswar station.
While Surendra took the train to Jeypore and reached home safely, his wife Sujata wrongly boarded a Kolkata-bound train.
She was traced and rescued from Balasore after she was forced to disembark at the station by the ticket checker since she had no valid ticket.
She was spotted roaming near Balasore station on the night of April 17 by a youth Debapriya Samal, who took care of her after coming to know of her credentials. Later with the chief minister’s intervention, Balasore district administration sent her back to Jeypore safely on Thursday. There is, however, no trace of her 19-year-old son Babuli yet.
“Worried over the whereabouts Panda’s grandson, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has directed the director general of police to locate him and ensure his safety,” a communication from the chief minister’s office said.
Patnaik feliciated Samal and described him as a “good Samaritan” and presented him a memento in appreciation of his gesture.
“His (Samal) inspiring good work will encourage others to help people in distress,” Patnaik said.
Samal said he was fortunate that he could help a family member of Captain Laxmi Indira Panda and at the same time get an opportunity to meet the chief minister.
Meanwhile, the issue took a political turn with ruling BJD and opposition Congress criticising BJP for putting the family members of Captain Laxmi Indira Panda into trouble.
“It was the responsibility of BJP to ensure the safe return of the freedom fighter’s family. They forgot it, for which the entire family suffered,” said BJD spokesman P K Deb.
Congress MLA Taraprasad Bahinipati, who also hails from Koraput, too criticised BJP for disrespecting the freedom fighter’s family.
BJP vice-president Samir Mohanty described the incident as “unfortunate.” Sources said the central PSU Nalco was given the resoponsibility to bring the Panda family.
“They (Panda family) took Rs 6,000 from us to hire a taxi to return to Jeypore. They told us that they would return after some time,” said Nalco General Manager Sanjay Mishra when contacted.