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Welfare roads to battle rebels

Ranchi, Nov. 24: The government has decided to again approach the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for constructing pathways in the extremist-affected areas of the state.

The government, after consultations with the police top brass, today prepared a final proposal to be sent to the BRO.

The BRO, a wing of the defence ministry, had rejected a similar proposal earlier this year, saying the project would not be viable in Jharkhand, given the high costs. “This time the proposal is specifically for roads in the Naxalite-affected districts,” sources said. The previous project included roads in non-Naxalite areas as well.

After a meeting with senior police officials and the superintendents of extremist-affected districts, chief minister Babulal Marandi reportedly agreed to take up the matter and personally request defence minister George Fernandes to ask the BRO to undertake the project.

The government has, in principal, agreed to pay the BRO according to its terms and conditions.

Today’s meeting also focussed on the killings of policemen in landmine blasts by extremists from the MCC and People’s War. Senior police officials told the chief minister that most landmine explosions were linked to poor road conditions.

“The meeting focussed on development work to combat extremist violence. Most landmine blasts were triggered on bad roads. It is difficult to locate what is planted where on these roads. This makes policing difficult,” said a senior officer who attended the meeting.

The police top brass also echoed the resentment in the lower ranks against the Latehar district administration following last week’s blast at Betla’s Project Tiger reserve in which seven policemen were killed.

The officials reportedly told Marandi that three policemen had died in a landmine explosion at the same spot last year. They alleged that despite repeated reminders, the Latehar district authorities did not take the initiative of constructing a pucca road there.

Apart from the police superintendents, director-general of police R.R. Prasad, inspector-general (operations) R.C. Kaithal and zonal IG Rajiv Kumar attended the meeting. Another “strategy session” is slated tomorrow at Kumar’s office.

“The main problem in tackling extremism is the non-execution of various development schemes. Combating Naxalism and executing development schemes are linked. Everything depends on development. If there are no roads, policemen get killed. If the development schemes get under way, they mean employment for the local youths who are otherwise being brain-washed by the extremist outfits,” the officer asserted.

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