Through ‘Project Varadhi’, the district police, with the involvement of tribal people, succeed in bringing about a turnaround
At least nine out of the 11 mandals in the Agency areas of Visakhapatnam district have been under the stranglehold of the banned CPI (Maoist) for the last two decades, as a result of which they are devoid of even basic infrastructure.
Many tribal hamlets in the interior areas, especially in the Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) region, remain cut off from the mainstream, mainly due to lack of road connectivity.
But with the security forces making inroads into the AOB region and taking up “new-age community policing programmes,” the tribal people, who have been living under the fear of the Left Wing Extremists (LWE), are beginning to witness the government-sponsored developmental activities.
‘Project Varadhi’ is one such programme that has been initiated by the Visakhapatnam District Police in the Chintapalli area of the Agency.
The Chintapalli Police Sub-Division covers almost 1,400 sq km of the 6,200-odd sq km of the Visakha Agency. It borders Malkangiri in the AOB region, and has been a traditional hub of the Maoists.
“The aim of the project is to improve road connectivity to interior areas by involving the tribal people, and making them own the project. Roads will pave the way for developmental activities such as mobile phone connectivity, and educational and medical initiatives,” said Vidyasagar Naidu, ASP of Chintapalli.
The tribal people of Cheruvuru, a Maoist stronghold, had, for the first time, seen an ambulance visiting their hamlet when a road was laid to the village overnight in November last, Mr. Naidu said.
As of date, about 45-km of road has been laid in some of the Maoist hotbeds with the support of the tribal people, the police and the Paderu ITDA, benefiting an estimated 12,000 people.
“We now have an Aadhaar centre too, which benefits at least 4,000 tribal people,” said a tribal from the Balapam area.
Some of the roads laid under the project included a 6-km stretch from P.K. Gudem to Mandapalli, a 4-km road from Korukonda to Cheruvuru, and a 5-km road from Jerella to Assampalli, all recognised as Maoist strongholds.
The project, envisaged by Superintendent of Police B. Krishna Rao and OSD Sateesh Kumar, involves laying of a simple and cost-effective kutcha road.
While it costs ₹70 lakh to lay a one-km BT road, a five-km kutcha road costs between ₹70,000 and ₹1.20 lakh.
“We focussed on laying kutcha or gravel road of five-metre width to enable at least two vehicles to move freely,” said Mr. Naidu.
Challenges en route
“To involve the tribal people and make them own the project was quite a task. It took some time to instil confidence in them. In the tribal areas, any person seen interacting with the police, or any government employee, is branded a police informers by the Maoists and are killed,” Mr. Naidu said.
Motivating the contractors to supply the earthmoving equipment and start work was another challenge was by the police.
The involvement of the tribal people made all the difference. They had come forward to constitute committees to protect the equipment and the workers, besides offering ‘shramadan’ and providing logistical support, he said.