Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Public, pvt sectors bear brunt of Naxalite attacks

28 Jul 2009, 0712 hrs IST, Bharti Jain , ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The growing influence of Naxalites over the last few years has not only seen a jump in incidents and casualties but also taken a toll on
economic activity in the affected states.

Public and private sector industries, particularly in sectors like power, mining, railways and communication, have borne the brunt of Naxalite attacks, and increasingly so since 2006, defying the CPI(Maoist) own ideology that seeks to target the state for not sharing the fruits of development with the “have-nots”.

Sample this: according to data compiled by the Union home ministry, the Naxalite strikes on economic targets have progressively grown from 71 in 2006 to 80 in 2007, 109 in 2008 and 56 in the first half of 2009. Among these, communication towers were the most targeted this year, having seen 26 attacks between January 1 and June 30. Railways came second with 15 extremist strikes so far this year on its infrastructure and properties across Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal.

Economic targets (10) in the first six months of this year included the NMDC mines, Gramin Sadak Nirman Yojana works, Essar Pipelines in Chhattisgarh; Essar Piplelines again in Orissa and Solar plates in Bihar. This is higher than the total five extremismrelated incidents against economic targets in whole of 2008 and eight in 2007.

However, it was in 2006 that economic activity in Left wing extremism-hit states saw its worst year with 23 private and public sector units — including uranium mines in Bihar, NMDC (attacked 11 times) Essar Pipelines (Chhattisgarh and Orissa), a steel plant in Jharkhand and BRO works in Maharashtra, getting hit.

The Naxalites have not spared power plants either, with Andhra Pradesh bearing most of the attacks. While two power plants in Maharashtra have seen Maoist attacks so far this year, one was targeted in 2008, three in 2007 and four in 2006. Even poles and transmission lines have been destroyed/disrupted thrice in Chhattisgarh in 2009, a good 24 times in 2008 (of which 23 alone were in Chhattisgarh), 10 times in 2007 and five times in 2006. Chhattisgarh has accounted for all but one attack on power infrastructure since 2006.

Mines, which are abound in the Naxal-infested areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, have also been attacked over the years, though no attack has been reported yet in 2009. The last year saw six incidents of Naxal violence targeted at mines, the same as in 2007 and up from lone attack in 2006.

Railways are a favoured target, given its vast network and infrastructure and the practical difficulties involved in protecting the same. Railway properties have seen 15 attacks until June 30 this year, as against 27 in 2008, 47 in 2007 and 33 in 2006.

While Bihar saw the highest number of attacks on railway infrastructure in 2006 (12) and 2008 (11), Chhattisgarh was the worst hit (18) followed by Jharkhand (15) in 2007. This year, however, railway properties in Orissa seem to be the favoured target of Naxals, having been hit five times so far.

The year 2008 logged 46 strikes on communication infrastructure while the first six months of 2009 have already seen 26 such attacks. Sources in the security establishment say that this is mainly on account of the vulnerability of the towers due to their location in remote areas, making their protection difficult. Insiders, however, blame the failure of telecom companies to pay extortion money to the Naxalites for the frequent attacks on their towers.

Essar Groups properties in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Orissa have been consistently targeted over the last three years, with Essar Steel in Bihar having seen an attack each in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Essar Pipelines have been hit by the Maoists twice in Chhattisgarh and four times in Orissa in the first half of 2009, as against three and one attacks in Chhattisgarh in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

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