The Congress has demanded that the State Government should take note of the problems faced by people living in areas cut off from rest of the State in Malkangiri district as the launch services in Balimela reservoir were stopped in view of the Maoist threat.
Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh said launch services in the reservoir came to a halt on Wednesday due to threat from suspected Maoists, snapping the lone communication link for a population of above 20,000 people in 151 villages of the cut off areas of Chitrakonda region.
The area is a den of Maoists.
Singh and Congress MLA from Chitrakonda Mamata Madhi raised the issue in the Assembly on Saturday and urged Deputy Speaker Sananda Marandi, who was in the chair, to direct the State Government to ensure resumption of launch services. Madhi sought Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s intervention.
Launch services were provided by the Irrigation Department for the villagers in the Chitrakonda area across the reservoir, about 60 km from the district headquarters of Malkangiri. Launches were the only mode of transport for reaching the villages of seven panchayats.
The decision to suspend the launch services for an indefinite period was taken as a safety measure following a threat issued to the reservoir staff by suspected Maoists seeking a halt to the operations.
While the Department had provided six launches, only four were operating as two others were out of order. Sources said unidentified persons, suspected to be Maoists, appeared at the launch ghat on Tuesday night and asked locals to inform the operators not to ply the launches.
The suspected Maoists also threatened the operators of dire consequences if they defied the directive.
They also asked all the government employees deployed in the cut-off region including teachers to suspend work with immediate effect.