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Focus on Centre to fight Maoists

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 24: Better Centre-state coordination in tackling Maoists was the focus of the unified command meeting held here yesterday.

Sources said the deliberations presided over by chief secretary B.K. Patnaik underscored the need for enhanced support from New Delhi to Odisha in combating the menace of the Red rebels, who have a presence in 19 of state’s 30 districts.

Though Maoist violence declined in the state in 2012, official sources said there was no denying the concern over the increasing base of the rebels, who have made their presence felt in several coastal districts. The meeting felt that the combined operation of the state police and paramilitary forces could be effective only if New Delhi and Bhubaneswar acted in sync.

The proposal of Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh to develop the rebel-affected Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary in Nuapada district on the lines of the Saranda project in Jharkhand also came up for discussion. The state government has already submitted a plan to the Union ministry in this regard and now the details have to be worked out.

In a recent letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Ramesh offered to take up some key developmental issues such as roads under Pradhanmantri Sadak Yojana and houses under Indira Awas Yojana in the sanctuary area inhabited by tribal people. He wanted the chief minister to reciprocate so that the area could develop faster.

Sunabeda came into focus in 2010 when 10 police jawans from Chhattisgarh were shot dead by the Maoists on the edge of the sanctuary. Sometime later, the rebels killed two persons on the Odisha side of the border in the area. Ever since, there have been intelligence reports about the rebels trying to cut a corridor through the sanctuary to Chhattisgarh.

Significantly, Nuapada also shares borders with Kalahandi and Balangir which have lately emerged as the Maoist hotbeds. The rebels have killed some people in Balangir and Kalahandi districts.

Sources said apart from discussing Ramesh’s plan for Sunabeda, which would have repercussions in the entire area stretching from there to Lanjigarh, the unified command meeting also discussed ways of improving coordination between state police and the paramilitary forces such as CRPF and the BFP deployed in the Maoist-dominated belt.