Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Orissa airlifts food for forces in Maoist zone

23 Jun 2009, 2231 hrs IST, Rajaram Satapathy, TNN

BHUBANESWAR: The state government on Tuesday airlifted food and other essential commodities for police and paramilitary forces, who are confined to
Narayanpatna owing to closure of roads by Maoists

Since June 15, the roads to Narayanpatna are closed as the government has failed to remove trees felled by Maoists to block them. On June 17, nine security personnel and a driver were killed when the rebels blew off their jeep with a landmine near Narayanpatna.

Sources said a helicopter made two sorties from Koraput to Narayanpatna carrying rice, dal, sugar, kerosene and dry food. At the moment, there are 100 CRPF and 60 OSAP personnel stationed at Narayanpatna along with local policemen. They have gone out after the Maoists destroyed telecommunication towers in the area last week.

Authorities fear that the Maoists may loot weapons taking advantage of the situation, the sources said. Additional forces have also been airlifted to Narayanpatna, they added.

The use of choppers comes in the wake of attacks on a guest house and checkgate in the Sunabeda forest range in neighbouring Nuapada district on Monday night. About 20 extremists came from Chhatisgarh and burnt all official papers and furniture at the guest house. They took away about Rs 60,000, a walkie-talkie and mobile phones from the staff. They did not harm anyone, police said.

The Maoist violence also continued in Kandhamal district where four persons were kidnapped on Sunday night. The victims included the husband of the interior Sonepur panchayat sarpanch, a local panchayat member and a ward member.

Life was paralyzed in Malkangiri and parts of southern Orissa on the second day of the two-day bandh call given by the extremists. Public vehicles remained off the road and government officials did not attend work fearing Maoist attacks. Government sources said Union home minister P Chidambaram is likely to visit Bhubaneswar on Thursday to take stock of the situation. He is also scheduled to visit Koraput, they added.

District collector (Koraput) Bichitrananda Das said the road blockade will be cleared over the next few days. "The situation is certainly serious. We have reports that the extremists have laid mines at several places. No one is willing to enter the area during the bandh. It is difficult to get labourers at this moment," he added.

The sources said Narayanpatna had been out of bounds because police are reluctant to clear the roads. "Road clearance is the job of the district administration. Police can provide a security cover," a senior police official said. "The genesis of the trouble in Narayanpatna and other areas stemmed from the land problems and lack of development in the area. We are not responsible for poverty of the people, but we are getting killed," the official added.

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