Monday, June 23, 2008

Ex-armymen shield for projects in red belt

ANEETA SHARMA

With security from new battalions, roads like this would get asphalt coating in remote Maoist-hit areas

Ranchi, June 22: The state police will raise two battalions of ex-army personnel to protect ongoing development projects from Naxalite disruptions in Jharkhand.

“Two auxiliary battalions of retired but able-bodied and fit-to-work personnel from the armed forces would be raised within two-three months to provide security to projects going on in the state, including construction of roads, particularly in rural and remote areas,” said V.D. Ram, director-general of police (DGP).

The state government was also mulling a proposal, on the lines of northeastern states, to provide for “security budget” along with estimates for roads construction in extremist areas of Jharkhand.

This means the cost of raising security would have to be included in the estimate for roads construction. For example, if the cost of construction of a road was Rs 10 crore, another Rs 10-15 lakh would have to be provided in the estimate to provide security to the project. The amount fixed for security could vary on the degree of Naxalite threat perceived for the concerned project site at a particular area, said a senior official of the roads construction department.

At least 1,500km of road would have to be built in Naxalite areas of the state, but, as the senior official said, workers and key staff of the contractors have often been abducted when they failed to pay levy to the Maoists and burnt down equipment.

In fact, the situation has been so grim that even the Border Roads Organisation has withdrawn from constructing roads in the Maoist areas. Ranchi-west, Palamau, Hazaribagh, Chatra, Koderma, Garhwa, Daltongunj, Lohardaga, Simdega, Gumla and others have been worst affected.

Of the total 17,056km surfaced and kuchcha roads in Jharkhand, 6,323km run through villages, while 4991.75km are PWD roads and the rest national and state highways.

Roads connected only 26 per cent of the villages and there was need to construct bridges and more roads in the hilly terrain that criss-cross valleys and major trenches

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