Pawar to head central team to Kandhamal

November 11th, 2008 - 7:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 11 (IANS) A four-member ministerial delegation, led by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, will visit Orissa’s violence-hit Kandhamal district Nov 17, an official said Tuesday.The team, during its two-day visit, would assess the situation in the district that witnessed anti-Christian attacks since Aug 25 following the killing of a Hindu leader. The other members of the central team are Tribal Affairs Minister P.R. Kyndiah, Transport Minister T.R. Baalu and Social Justice Minister Meira Kumar.

They are expected to discuss a rehabilitation plan for the thousands who fled their homes with the Orissa government, the official told IANS.

The team will hold talks with the Kandhamal district collector Nov 17 and visit refugee camps in Pikabali, Raikia and Nuagaon, before leaving for Bhubaneswar Nov 19, the official said.

The central team’s visit comes in the wake of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s offer of financial help to reconstruct the churches and homes vandalised during the anti-Christian attacks in the state.

The prime minister had offered financial help when Samuel Kobiya, general secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) met him in New Delhi last month.

Different Christian groups had drawn Singh’s attention towards the alleged harassment of Christians.

Kandhamal district saw large-scale attacks on Christians and their places of worship, after the Aug 23 killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda and four of his aides.

Though Maoist rebels have claimed responsibility for the killings, radical Hindu groups hold Christians responsible. At least, 38 people have been killed in the violence that has left more than 20,000 people homeless. Around 11,000 people are still living in relief camps.

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