London: As human rights campaigners alleged that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had pulled out of a lecture scheduled at Brighton on Monday, his aides insisted that there were no plans for a lecture at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). V K Pandian, private secretary to the Chief Minister said that the plan was to share experience and benefit from inputs from IDS experts on malnutrition and poverty reduction in Odisha, which is a major beneficiary of British aid.

Pandian said Patnaik's interaction with IDS experts will be held at the Indian high commission in London on Monday, while human rights groups such as Survival International criticised the decision to cancel the scheduled lecture in Brighton. Patnaik is on his first foreign trip after becoming Chief Minister in 2000.

An IDS spokesman confirmed that the Monday's interaction will be held between Patnaik and IDS director Prof Lawrence Haddad and other academics. The spokesman said: "The Chief Minister of Odisha was expected to visit us on 28 May and give a seminar titled 'Reforms and Achievements in Odisha'. "We were informed earlier this week by his office that he could not fit a trip to Brighton into his schedule. Our Director and a number of IDS academics will instead meet him in London".

Several Indian students, civil servants and activists have studied and conducted research at IDS, which is part of the University of Sussex and is known for research into Indian development issues. Human rights organisations alleged that the Brighton lecture was cancelled after learning that the event would be attended by activists and students who would question him about against alleged violation of tribal rights in Odisha.

Some students had reportedly displayed a board with photos and details of alleged atrocities in Odisha ahead of Patnaik's expected visit to Brighton.

Survival International's director Stephen Corry said: "There has been an alarming state-wide abuse of tribal peoples’ rights on Mr Patnaik's watch. Families trying to defend their lands from industrial projects have met police bullets, batons and brutality".

During his visit to the UK, Patnaik is scheduled to meet officials of the Department for International Development (DFID), which funds several projects in Odisha.
He is also scheduled to inaugurate an Odisha handloom show and attend a dinner organised by the Odisha Society in UK.


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