Bhubaneswar, March 2 (LocalWire): Maoists insurgents may target major connectivity-related infrastructure in their strongholds in a bid to push security forces on the back foot ahead of 2019 general election, officials fear.
The crucial Gurupriya bridge connects Malkangiri district’s “cut-off” area with the mainland. It facilitates the movement of troops in the “cut-off” area, so called because of its difficult topography and was inaugurated last year by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
The 910-metre bridge, built at a cost of Rs 187 crore, provide road connectivity to the residents of around 151 villages located in the “cut-off” area, which has been a Maoist stronghold, sources said. The area has seen several Maoist strikes in the past.
It is also the area from where former Malkangiri collector R. Vineel Krishna had been abducted by the ultras in 2011.
In 2008, Maoists had gunned down 39 jawans of the elite Greyhound force from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, when they were crossing the Balimela reservoir in the “cut-off” area.
The jawans were returning after conducting a combing operation to flush out the ultras.
The other reason why the left wing ultras may target the bridge is that it is likely to bring all-round transformation in this Maoist dominated belt through improved connectivity, health, education and electrification.
It would also ensure improved economic activities and livelihood opportunities for the local people.
Malkangiri has been one of the worst Maoist affected districts with more than 300 incidents of ultra-left violence reported from the region during the last 10 years.
The ultras have been taking advantage of the difficult topography of the area and using it as their safe haven.
Malkangiri, however, is not the only district where developmental and infrastructure related projects are being targeted by the Maoists.
Sources said that road projects worth Rs 50 crore under the rural road development scheme and Pradhanmantri Gram Dadak Yojana have remained incomplete in the ultra-dominated Kandhmal district because of Maoist threat.
Contractors, who had agreed to work on these projects, left most of these mid-way because of the threat from the ultras.
“It is more or less the same tactics that the ultras had used when they tried to stop the Gurupriya bridge project.
The bridge project, which had been originally conceived when JB Patnaik was the chief minister of the state, remained incomplete because successive contractors quit the work out of fear.
It was finally completed after two battalions of BSF were posted on both sides of the bridge. The government may have to adopt the same tactics to complete the road projects in Kandhmal,” said an official.