India to construct 12 crucial roads to neutralise Naxal menace

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: In what may turn out to be a decisive, final step in the country’s battle against Naxals, the government has ordered construction work in ‘mission mode’ of 12 crucial roads that lie deep in the Naxal dominated belt.

Sources told this newspaper that construction work on some of these roads has been pending for more than a decade now. The roads, once constructed, will allow mass mobilization of security forces in areas that the forces have not been able to penetrate till now in large numbers. Some of these roads were functional, sources added, till around three decades ago when Naxals blew them up with the purpose of keeping the forces away.

These 12 crucial roads, located in the three worst Naxal-hit districts in the country—Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada; all in Chhattisgarh–covering about 478.6 kms have been sanctioned over the past one decade but 214.8 kms of road construction is still pending, according to senior home ministry officials.

“The decision has been taken in view of the marked improvement in the security situation on the ground. The target is to complete 76.8 km of pending road construction by June next year and the remaining pending work will be completed on a priority basis in the next few years too. Idea is to reclaim the region in Maoists’ heartland and uproot them,” a top home ministry official said.

The enormity of completing the construction of these roads can be gauged from the fact that as many as 53 CRPF personnel have been killed during the construction of these roads over the last eight years. 17 CRPF jawans have been injured too during construction work of these roads since 2014, home ministry data accessed by this newspaper reveals. The Director-General of Central Reserve Police Force, the primary combat force against Naxals in areas affected by Left Wing Extremism, has instructed the troops on the ground to expedite completion of work of the 12 critical roads on mission mode in coordination with Chhattisgarh police, sources said.

Of the 12 roads, five falls in Sukma district, one in Dantewada, and four are in the Bijapur district while two roads are located on the Bijapur-Sukma border and Dantewada-Sukma border. The roads will not only prove pivotal for the development of locals in the area but it would be a victory of security forces against Maoists in their strongest base.

According to sources, two such roads — one connecting Bheji to Chintagufa (which is to be about 30 km long) and the other 8 km long stretch Golapalli to Paidagudem-were sanctioned in the year 2012 and 2015—but the work on these roads is yet to begin. However, the government has set a target of 10 km stretch of Bheji-Chintagufa road by June next year and the entire Golapalli-Paidagudem is to be built by March next year.

Another 38.8-km long crucial road connecting Pali to Barsoor in Dantewada district–that was sanctioned in July 2010–is to be completed by June next year, as per the government’s blueprint.

For the important 56-km long Dornapal-Jagargunda road that was sanctioned in September 2015, 22-km work is still pending and the government is eying a target of mid-2023 to complete the stretch, sources said.

The decision has been taken in view of the steep decline in violence levels as well as the geographical spread of Left-wing extremism in the country over the past decade. CRPF has not suffered a single casualty during road construction activities in the past four years which is a big achievement of the force, a senior CRPF official pointed out.

“Maoists know the roads will be a big setback for them and therefore, time and again they have launched some of their deadliest attacks against security forces involved in the construction process to delay the construction work,” said the paramilitary official, who is posted in Chhattisgarh.

The quadrilateral patch of Sukma, from Dornapal to Kistaram and Bheji to Jagargunda on Gollapalli track serves as a haven for Naxals. The area helps ultras in movement across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana Odisha and Maharashtra through Chhattisgarh, but also for their guerrilla warfare training amid the dense forests and inaccessible terrain.