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Naxal threat stalls road construction in Bihar

Nistula Hebbar  |  New Delhi 

On the eve of a meeting of all chief ministers on the issue of internal security, and in the backdrop of the daring jailbreak by Naxals in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, comes a damning report by the Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) over the many road projects in Bihar being abandoned due to the threat by Naxals.
The report submitted to the rural development ministry looks at the projects under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), up to Novermber 30 this year. Under PMGSY, Bihar has a target to connect 9,600 villages.
This involves a road length of 27,000 km. Out of 38 districts, IRCON is taking care of eight districts, NHPC and NPCC will make six each, CPWD four while the remaining districts are managed by NBCC, officials said.
Out of nearly 57 such road projects initiated in the four districts of Arval, Gaya, Aurangabad and Jehanabad, nearly 23 have been abandoned due to the Naxal menace. Ministry officials admit that in most cases, extortion calls have been made to contractors on these roads leading to the abandonment of these projects.
The cumulative cost of these roads is around Rs 347 crore, but there are several roads where work has not even begun. For example, a series of six roads in Arval district have seen no work being done due to the Naxal threat in the area.
"In many cases, even after we have engaged the contractors, they have asked to be removed from the project since they have received calls for money. They tell us, why should we undertake the work, in the end we lose more money than we can make," said a ministry official, adding, "There have also been cases of kidnapping."
While there are no similar kind of studies available for other Naxal-affected states, the problems in these areas are similar.
While jail breaks and kidnappings make for sensational events highlighting the problems regarding Naxalism, the blocking of developmental work, points to the fact that these contribute to the perpetuation of these problems.
Same is the case in Aurangabad district where a series of eight roads have seen no physical progress in work, as the government has found it difficult to engage contractors willing to undertake the projects.

First Published: Thu, December 20 2007. 00:00 IST