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Maoists singe road project

An armed Maoist squad swooped down on a road construction site at Tiskopi under Gomia block of Bokaro district on Tuesday evening and set ablaze three excavators over levy demands within hours of the visit of an election observer.

The rebels, who were around 18 in number, also beat up the in-charge of the workers, asking him to ensure that his employers paid them the levy on time. They also left behind two posters, barring the contractor from resuming work till further orders.

The burnt excavators, worth over a crore, belonged to supplier Mohammad Islam, who had in turn had given the machines on contract to Ranchi-based Messer Ravi Construction that is building the Tiskopi-Gomia road, around 95km from Bokaro steel city.

Speaking to The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, a labourer employed by Messer Ravi Construction said that they had finished work around 6.30pm and were about to go for refreshment when about 18 Maoists suddenly emerged from the surrounding forests and took them in their custody.

“They asked us to keep quiet and singled out our in-charge, Jivadan Mahto. They started beating him up, threatening of dire consequences if anyone dared to defy their diktat, which included paying levy late. After a few minutes they left Mahto and warned us not to work till the money was paid to them. Before leaving, they burnt down all three excavators,” the panic-stricken worker added.

Before retreating into the jungles, the Maoists left two posters, which said that all those defying them would be punished. The contractor has been asked to give proper salary to workers and not to resume constructing the road without a go-ahead from them.

After coming to know about the attack, inspector of Gomia circle S.K. Singh contacted his seniors late in the evening. But the police top brass, fearing that the rebels might have laid a trap for them in the dark, preferred to send forces to the area on Wednesday morning.

The state police, along with CRPF jawans, have launched an operation.

Confirming this, Bokaro superintendent of police Jitendra Singh said a combing operation was on to flush out the Naxalites. “Our men have begun their investigations and are trying to track down those involved in the incident,” he added.

Around five hours before the attack, Shalin Kabra, election observer (general) of Giridih Lok Sabha seat, had visited the block to take stock of poll preparations. Shalin arrived at Gomia, which falls under Giridih constituency, around 2pm and left after around an hour.

Giridih will vote on April 17.

Naxalites demanding levy from contractors building roads and other infrastructure projects are common in rebel-hit areas. Sources said that in this case, the Maoists might have increased the levy, as a result of which Messer Ravi Construction could not pay on time.