Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Raipur lays road to fight Naxals

Nitin Mahajan

RAIPUR, OCTOBER 17: Concrete roads will be the Chhattisgarh government's latest weapon against Naxalites. With landmines claiming an alarmingly high number of casualties, the government has decided to build concrete roads in Naxal-affected areas. Experts feel extremists will not be able to plant landmines easily on these roads.

The decision follows a recent Union Ministry of Home Affairs directive seeking to improve the security scenario and connectivity in Naxal-affected states. An Union Ministry of Rural Development order has also asked the Chhattisgarh government to use Central funds routed through it for building concrete roads in such areas. As an added incentive, funds allocated under the Prime Minister's Rural Roads Development Project, will also be allocated for the project, expected to cover villages with at least 100 families.

Speaking to The Indian Express, state Home Minister Ramvichar Netam said cement roads will help save many lives. “Planting landmines won't be easy. Even if explosive devices are implanted they would be easily detected,” Netam added.

About 40 roads and small bridges are being constructed in Dantewada and Bijapur, while 26 road projects worth about Rs 45.9 crore have been sanctioned for other districts. Construction work on eight roads connecting various villages with the district headquarters at a cost of about Rs 10.6 crore has also begun.

According to official sources, the government hopes the new roads will also help fast movement of security forces. Statistics reveal that of the 880 fatalities in the struggle against Naxals in the state, 220 were killed in landmine explosions.

Security officials have repeatedly asked for better roads in Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker and Sarguja. “These districts have nothing more than a network of kuchcha roads and mud trails where Naxals always have the advantage. They can attack a convoy and vanish on these trails which hamper free movement of vehicles. Installation of IEDs is also much easier than on pucca roads,” the officials added.

According to various estimates, thousands of landmines and IEDs have been planted by Naxalites across Chhattisgarh.

These devices are generally used to target security convoys or civilian targets that can cause high number of casualties.

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