CHHATTISGARH: The Chhattisgarh government has taken its development strategy well inside the Maoist strongholds despite paying a heavy price of human casualties. The Bastar Police has started getting some success as road networks and bridge constructions link the tribals areas with the mainstream.
The so-called Red Zone is now teeming with security camps at strategic locations. These camps not only safeguard the lives and properties of civilians but also facilitate an environment for all-encompassing development.
Last year saw the addition of 16 new camps. In the last two decades, more than 118 camps have been set up in the Bastar region for CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB, Chhattisgarh Armed Force and local police.
The supporting infrastructure of roads and bridges assumes immense significance in the war against Left-wing Extremism (LWE). The seven worst-affected districts in the state have witnessed swift road and bridge construction amid the persisting Maoist threat.
Since 2018, roads measuring about 500 km have been built in Bastar. These passages cover 11 main pathways across the Bastar range – an area larger than Kerala. "At places hundreds of tribals turned up for ‘shramdaan’ for constructing roads, defying the diktat issued by the guerrillas. Earlier we had to walk 10-20 km to get ration, medical assistance or a school," says Bhola Sukalu, a gram panchayat sarpanch in Sukma.
Another 450 km road network has been planned through tribal habitats and forested terrains linking the 12 main routes in the areas.
On average the per km construction cost of a road is Rs 80 lakh in Bastar. Building such infrastructure is covered under the Road Requirement Plan (RRP), a Centre scheme for LWE areas and implemented by the state.
"Our success in the last couple of years has encouraged us to embark upon yet another mission to complete another 450 km of roads by 2023. Various critical axes of the state highways have been opened by deploying security forces," said IG (Bastar range) Sunderraj P.
The Maoists usually oppose connectivity projects in their areas of influence. They consider roads as disadvantageous to their surprise attack tactics.
Their target remains heavy machines, vehicles and the forces offering security to those supervising the construction. On many occasions, work was suspended when they ambushed the 'road opening parties'. "In the face of the martyrdom of scores of security personnel, we have completed over 1600 of the RRP roads in the core Maoist breeding ground. We would be taking up the remaining road construction this year," said the Bastar IG.
“With a better road network, locals can easily access the civil administration as well as health, education and various civic action programmes. Better connectivity assists the forces in swiftly mobilising their men and machines during counterinsurgency operations”, says Abhishek Pallava, SP, Dantewada district.
As part of the ‘Vishwas-Vikas-Suraksha (trust, development and security)’ strategy, the police believes it can solve the LWE problem through a multi-pronged approach in which development is the key.
In December 2020, the police and administration launched the 'Manva Nava Naar' (Our new progressive village) initiative. The idea is to provide basic amenities such as school education, health & Anganwadi centre, ration shops, electricity, road and bridge connectivity, banking facilities and mobile connectivity to villages where security camps are located, officials said.