Baripada (Odisha), Jan 5 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday accused Odisha government of not being serious about the welfare of women and girls and urged it to re-investigate the Pipili gang rape and murder.

“This (state) government could not give justice to a girl in an incident that took place seven to eight years ago in Puri district. It is natural that women and girls are angry over laxity in investigation into the case for which the victim has been denied justice,” Modi said at a BJP rally here.

A 19-year-old dalit girl was raped in 2011 and died in coma in 2012 sparking a state-wide furore over the incident.

“I urge the Odisha government to re-investigate the incident with all seriousness so that the people of evil character get a strong message,” said the prime minister who paid a second visit in less than a fortnight to the state where assembly polls are slated to be held along with the Lok Sabha elections.

Describing the track record of the Odisha government in protecting women and girls as “not good”, he said while the central government had made provisions like death penalty for the perpetrators of crime against women the security and safety of women is in question in Odisha.

Reacting to the Prime Minister Modi’s remarks on the Pipili rape and murder case, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in Bhubaneswar, “We are following the case very forcefully.”

On December 24 a local court in Bhubaneswar had acquitted the accused persons as the police crime branch failed to provide the required evidence against them. The women activists of the Congress and BJP have been staging demonstrations seeking justice for the girl.

Modi said Odisha should take benefit of the central schemes launched by the NDA government at the Centre for the welfare of women, girls and children. “But I am sorry that the state government is not serious about schemes for women’s welfare.”

The state is also lagging behind others in education, health, employment and other fronts though the BJD government is at the helm of the state for about two decades, he said.

Modi, who had criticised the Odisha government for not joining Ayushman Bharat scheme and implementing its own health scheme during his December 24 visit, urged it to implement the central health programme and not to keep away poor beneficiaries from availing its benefits.

Continuing his criticism of the Odisha government on the health front, the prime minister said it had shown minimal interest in carrying out the vaccination programme under Mission Indradhanush and lakhs of poor families are deprived of its benefits though the country has made significant progress under the scheme.

Development can only be achieved by coordination between the Centre and the state, he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.