| Flood-affected villagers eat food distributed at a temporary shelter in Puri district. (AP) |
Bhubaneswar, Sept. 17: Floods have taken a toll on Orissa’s anti-Maoist operation forcing its deceleration at a time when the security forces were bracing up to deliver a final blow to the rebels.
Sources said combing operation by Orissa police and the paramilitary jawans in most of the naxal-affected districts has slowed down considerably in view of persistent rain and poor road conditions. “The operation was in full swing in a number of districts where floods had caused large scale destruction leaving roads and other communication network in a shambles,” said an officer.
For example, the security forces are finding it extremely hard to pursue the rebels in districts such as Keonjhar and Jajpur, where the floods have taken a toll on road network in the interior areas. Parts of Sambalpur district, another Maoist bastion, have also been reeling from floods.
Sources said operation against the rebels had also been hit in districts, which had been spared the Nature’s fury. “The fact is that the entire focus of the administration has shifted to the relief operation. Officers from all over Orissa are being rushed to the flood zone for relief work. It seems the government cannot think of anything except the floods at the moment,” said an official.
This, however, has given the Maoists, who had been pushed on backfoot by the security forces, to regroup. Sources said rebels had launched fresh recruitment drives in many areas, where they were facing severe cadre depletion following arrests and surrenders.
“They are trying to draft in tribals in districts such as Sundergarh, Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada and Keonjhar where their base had been hit following recent police operations. Now, they will try their best to retrieve the lost ground,” said an officer.
Sources in the police department also expressed apprehensions about a possible increase in Maoist influx from Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh into Orissa taking advantage of the flood situation. “The rebels always become hyperactive in such situations which are tailor-made for them. While rain in the forests along the border may make the security forces’ job difficult, the rebels, who know the terrain much better, will operate with ease,” said an officer.
Senior police officers leading the anti-Maoist operation feel that the floods could not have arrived at a worse time. “Our operation has suddenly lost momentum which may prove costly,” said one of them.