A heap of construction material on Tuesday in Bero, the site of a PGCIL power substation project. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
Bero, April 10: Fear has pressed the pause button at the Garhgaon site of the proposed Bero power substation, 29km from the capital, more than 65 hours after rebels assaulted two workers and torched two cranes and an earthmover around 1.30am on Saturday.
The Telegraph saw the site — earlier bustling with 400 workers and high-end machinery — wearing a deserted look today.
Around 10 dumpers, four cranes and five earthmovers deployed to erect the 765/400KV substation were idle. Policemen and security guards sauntered around, even as workers stayed conspicuously absent.
The Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) project at Bero, a part of Jharkhand state’s total transmission work order to the PSU worth a staggering Rs 1,600 crore, is around Rs 200 crore. Work started here since August 2011.
Eight months on, the terror attack, being ascribed to People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a breakaway group of the CPI(Maoist), has succeeded in striking fear in the hearts of workers — two of whom, earthmover operator Saryu Gope and helper Nanku Gope had been beaten up soundly on that night.
Today, more than two days later, around 35 workers imported from Bihar who have been put up in asbestos-roofed shanty towns at the site, cowered inside. The rest, from villages nearby, have fled to their homes.
“We just won’t resume work till proper security arrangements are made for us,” a worker from Bihar said after much prodding.
“Working here is a life-threatening matter. The PLFI has threatened us with dire consequences if we start working without its permission,” he said, steadfastly refusing even to be named.
The power major has outsourced construction work to three companies — Siemens Limited, Maa Ambey Group Enterprises and Maa Vindeshwari Company — but senior officials of the companies were absent at the site.
Junior-level executives, who were present, were grim and declined to comment on the incident as well as when work was expected to resume.
In fact, the shackles of silence proved stronger among the junior officials than the workers.
“Please talk to my senior officials. Please do not ask anything from us. We are already very disturbed over what happened. We are frankly in no position to talk to the media. I am present here only because I need to keep my job,” a young executive with one of the outsourced companies told The Telegraph.
Those willing to come on record were all men in uniform.
Assistant sub-inspector of state police S.N. Sahu, deputed at the site to instil confidence among workers, exuded somewhat unrealistic confidence.
“Work will start soon,” he claimed. “Senior officers are making concerted efforts to nab the rebels involved in the attack,” he added.
Superintendent of police (rural) Asim Vikrant Minz supported Sahu. He also defined the term “soon” and gave assurances of beefing up security at the site.
“Raids are on. It is expected that work will start in two of three days. We will also depute a company of Jharkhand Armed Police permanently near the construction site to build confidence among workers,” he said.
Police had recovered a poster from the site purported to be from PLFI sub-zonal commander Jetha Jee, which said the attack was made as the substation work under the eastern region transmission system had “started without their consent”.
An FIR was registered in this connection at Bero police station.
The PLFI has been carrying out sporadic acts of violence, especially in and around Ranchi district, in places such as Hesapidhi, Burmu, Khunti, Angara, Khelari and others, all throughout 2011. Their attempts to draw mass support with bandhs evoked mixed response. Many, with cache of arms and ammunition, have been arrested in raids, too.