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Sukma ambush: Improving connectivity is the only way to reach out to naxal affected villagers

Author: Shantanu Nandan Sharma
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: April 30, 2017
URL:   http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/sukma-ambush-improving-connectivity-is-the-only-way-to-reach-out-to-naxal-affected-villagers/articleshow/58436429.cms

Against a backdrop of blame games after the Sukma ambush in which 25 CRPF personnel were massacred by left-wing extremists, here’s a reality check. In two dozen gram panchayats (out of 146) of Sukma district, located in South Bastar of Chhattisgarh, the government machinery has zero presence. There is no road connectivity, no school; health workers and other government functionaries can’t risk walking into these areas as Naxals have placed pressure bombs around fields and jungles.

 To be sure, if improving connectivity is what has made the Naxals insecure, more gunfire and detonations may well be the order of the day.

 After all, the government has been expediting the construction of new roads in the Naxal “liberated” zones so as to extend government benefit schemes to the villagers. The Naxals, for their part, are battling to keep their safe zones intact by resisting road construction, besides intimidating villagers not to use phones (with BSNL) and return their Aadhaar cards to the authority.

 “In Sukma district, Naxals fear their strongholds in areas such as Bhejji and Gollapally will vanish once the roads to those areas are completed. The forces will then be able to operate in the interiors,” Sukma’s district magistrate Niraj Kumar Bansod told ET Magazine in an hour-long interaction.

The administration is banking heavily on the construction of new roads to dominate areas currently under Naxal influence. Some 232 km are being constructed to connect the district’s interior areas.

The requisite funds of Rs 279 crore, earmarked under a scheme for areas affected by left wing extremism (LWE), is ready and at least two of the seven newly sanctioned roads — a 12 km stretch from Kistaram to Pedagudam and 20 km between Injeram and Bhejji — are expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Polam Polly's Geeta wants to be a doctor

Midiyam Geeta wants to be a doctor. Hailing from Polam Polly, a highly Naxal-affected village in Sukma, she has been preparing for medical entrance from the Education City, a government initiative to bring children from the interiors to the district headquarters and give them free stay, food and education. “For the last one year, I could not even speak to my parents. Naxals don’t allow our villagers to keep a phone. They take away the Aadhaar cards from the villagers,” she says, depicting the life of a villager deep inside the red corridor of South Bastar. When asked whether there’s any resistance from the villagers, she replies: “How can there be resistance? During the season (April) for collecting mahua flowers (used for preparing liquor), they extort Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 from every household. My parents too are forced to pay.”
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