ADDING TEETH: Security personnel in Saranda
Jamshedpur, Dec. 12: The fresh offensive launched by joint security forces in Saranda this week will continue for a longer duration than a similar operation last year, with the personnel aiming to restore confidence among road construction workforce who were jolted by a Maoist strike last month.
Starting Monday, over 1,600 personnel of CRPF, Cobra, Jharkhand Jaguar and Jharkhand Armed Police have been deployed in places such as Thalkobad, Bitkilsoya and Kumdi in Manoharpur and Gua, as part of Anaconda-II.
Last year, the police and CRPF forces had launched Anaconda-I on July 28 at the end of which they claimed to have flushed out rebels from Saranda — until then the eastern bureau headquarters of CPI(Maoist). The operation concluded on September 2, 2011.
A senior CRPF officer said Anaconda-II would last at least three months and instil a sense of security among workers engaged in development projects after armed Maoists torched heavy vehicles at Kiriburu block on November 26 to signal their presence in the West Singhbhum forest.
“After the Kiriburu violence when the rebels torched six earth movers belonging to a road construction agency, the contractors as well as workers have been extremely frightened. At almost all the sites, development work has come to a standstill,” said the officer.
Sources said that around 500 additional personnel from the CRPF’s Battalion VII would join the operation within a couple of days.
The CRPF officer pointed out that the paramilitary forces would ensure all the 11 roads — being built under the Centre’s Saranda Development Plan — in Manoharpur block were completed during their stay.
The Rs 249-crore development plan, a brainchild of Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, was launched in December 2011.
At present CRPF personnel belonging to roughly six companies have been guarding various projects under the central plan, which had also proposed to set up 23 permanent camps for the paramilitary forces in Saranda.
Ramesh, who had visited Ranchi on Sunday, had maintained that Saranda was totally under the state’s control, adding that two of the 11 roads would be launched within a fortnight.
Meanwhile, CRPF DIG (Ranchi) B.K. Sharma, who is in charge of operations in Saranda, also confirmed that the forces would stay for a longer period than last year.
“There are major differences between Operation Anaconda and Anaconda-II. In the previous operation that was launched in August 2011, the rebels were still dominant in Saranda forest and they had set up several training camps there. The main objective of the paramilitary forces was to destroy the camps and flush out the rebels by penetrating deep into the jungle. But now, the rebels who had fallen apart and were scattered are trying to re-establish themselves by triggering violence,” Sharma told The Telegraph.
The DIG said the paramilitary forces now faced the task of building confidence among those engaged in development projects.
“A positive turnaround can be brought about only when we carry out an intense combing operation in the forest. Moreover, most of the development projects will be completed during the months-long operation.” Sharma assured.
An officer in the CRPF, who had participated in Anaconda-I, said the fresh offensive would as hard. “In the previous operation, we had to cope with an extremely unfavourable condition, as it was carried out during monsoon. But now, we have to cope with the chill at night,” he added.