India: The Politics of Dams, Displacement, Bridges, and Resistance in AP and Orissa

Red fear: Ministers to Fly to Anti-Polavaram Rally Site

Bhubaneswar | Sep 11, 2010

With some of its senior leaders in the hit-list of Maoists, Orissa’s ruling Biju Janata Dal has decided that nine ministers who would to take part in anti-Polavaram project rally scheduled to be held at Maoist-hit Malkangiri district tomorrow would fly to the venue.

The proposed Polavaram irrigation project is in adjacent Andhra Pradesh which is being opposed by Orissa which argues the project would displace 20,000 people and inundate huge tracts of land in its territory.

Though Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would skip the party meeting for unstated reasons, nine ministers, two MPs and a dozen of sitting MLAs besides senior leaders would address the rally, official sources said.

Senior BJD MLA and former minister Rabi Narayan Nanda, who is playing a major role in organising the rally, said two choppers have been requisitioned to fly the ministers and other senior leaders to tribal-dominated Malkangiri.

Malkangiri was considered as the worst Maoist-hit district in the state as the rebels are running a parallel administration there for over a decade, a senior Home department official admitted.

“The ministers have been asked to avoid road journey in view of the danger from red rebels on routes leading to the meeting venue at Malkangiri,” said a senior police officer.

Citing an instance, he said 11 security personnel were killed in a landmine blast on April 4 at Gobindpalli ghat linking Malkangiri and Koraput, hours after Energy minister Atanu S Nayak had crossed the road.

“Ministers are strictly advised not to make road journey though Govindpalli ghat road and other roads in Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada and Gajapti districts of southern region,” the police officer said.

The nine ministers scheduled to address the rally include Finance minister Prafulla Ghadai who has been receiving threat calls and letters from the out-lawed outfit. Names of other ministers and BJD leaders figure in the list of Maoists, said an intelligence report.

Besides pressing eight platoons (about 250 armed police) of state police in rally duty, the state government had also alerted the BSF jawans to keep a vigil on the movement of red radicals.

At least three battalions (about 1650 personnel) of BSF jawans were deployed in Malkangiri to take on challenges put by ultras.

The district police also fear that the maoists could create disturbance by putting road blockades.

The ruling party was organising the rally at Malkangiri district as it said the the Polavaram project in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh would “severely hit the tribal population there.”

“We fear that Polavaram project will displace about 20,000 tribal families besides inundating 10,000 acre of forest and several thousand acre of cultivable land,” said senior BJD MLA and former minister Rabi Narayan Nanda.


The Telegraph: “Maoists ensure bridge to nowhere”

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 11: Lack of development in backward areas is often cited as the reason for the rise of Left-wing extremism, but the presence of Maoists in the Malkangiri region has halted infrastructure activities for the last 10 years.

As the writ of the Maoists runs large in the border areas of Malkangiri, proposals to build four bridges in the Naxal-dominated region have been hanging fire for the past decade. If built, the bridges would link the region with Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. If built, the bridges would benefit 151 villages in the area and provide better inter-state connectivity in the otherwise inaccessible interiors of southern Orissa.

Of the four constructions, Gurupriya bridge at Janbai would connect the region to Chitrakonda in Orissa. The Sileru bridge at Motu would link it to Andhra Pradesh. Dumpal bridge at Podia and Chikabaku bridge at Mahupadar would ensure better connectivity with Chhattisgarh.  Incidentally, all these projects fall within a 50-km radius of the proposed Polavaram project in western Godavari district that borders Malkangiri.

After the Centre asked the state to submit a detailed report as to why no progress had been made on these projects, the state government recently submitted a proposal to the Centre to construct the Gurupriya bridge at Janbai.  “We have submitted a proposal to the Centre this week. The cost of the bridge has been estimated at Rs 70 crore. We are expecting money from the Left Wing Extremism scheme,” said Malkangiri executive engineer (road and buildings) Arun Kumar Sahu.

State works secretary Subhendu Ray said the state government had planned the 900-metre Gurupriya bridge with a project estimate of Rs 38 crore in 2002.  “But the project cost has escalated as it has not been completed within the stipulated time. We are hopeful that the Centre would provide necessary assistance for the project,” Ray added.

Official sources said the government was not being able to go ahead with the projects as no agency was willing to undertake the job in view of Maoist threat. The Naxals were opposing the projects because they felt that these bridges would facilitate the movement of security forces in the area.

“Tenders have been floated several times. But no one has responded,” said an official.

Earlier, a major construction company, Gammon India Limited, had withdrawn from the Gurupriya bridge project after receiving threats from the Maoists.

“The state government had also approached the Border Road Organisation (BRO) to help the state in constructing the Gurupriya bridge, but the BRO had turned down the request. The state government is now planning to construct the bridge with the help of its own police force,” said Ray.

After the state government expressed helplessness in constructing these four bridges, the Centre asked Orissa to construct two bridges (Gurupriya and Chikabuka). Construction of the two other bridges will be entrusted to Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.  Official sources said now the bridge on Sileru river at Motu would be built by Andhra and the Dumpal bridge at Podia would be constructed by Chhattisgarh.

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