If the impact of the twin strategies of security and development is visible anywhere in areas affected by Left-wing Extremism (LWE), then it is here, in a substantially large area in one of the country’s most affected districts. Private contractors are working fearlessly, infrastructure development projects being completed faster than ever, with Naxals having virtually retreated from north Gadchiroli, comprising Wadsa, Kurkheda, Korchi and Dhanora tehsils.
The Indian Express had reported in April how intensive police patrolling had driven Naxals out of areas in north Gadchiroli, facilitating an election campaign free from fear for the first time.
Bridges and roads pending for many years have been completed, and primary health centres and ashram schools have come up in Kurkheda and Korchi tehsils. A 14-km road from Sonsuri to Uradi in Kurkheda, lying in a shambles for many years due to Naxal domination, was freshly laid with four bridges completed in the past six months, connecting people from many interior tribal villages to the tehsil and district headquarters.
At Sonsuri, an ashram school building has come up to replace the old one while another one is coming up at Korchi’s Kotgul, a core Naxal-affected village until a few months ago.
A newly laid road from Gyarapatti in Korchi to Sawargaon in Dhanora, and a stretch of State Highway 363 from Maseli to Chichgadh, with their smooth surfaces and freshly marked traffic signs have brought an urban ambience in place of an eerie atmosphere in the former Naxal stronghold.
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A proposed elevated bridge to replace a shallow one near Lendari village between Kurkheda and Korchi had been pending for several years amid opposition by Naxals, who once beat up a contractor. It is now ready to be thrown open. A police official said, “We gather that the Naxals have now bowed to public pressure and have sent a letter that the bridge may be built. It’s another matter that we would have ensured the construction despite that, but this underscores how Naxals are now forced to respect people’s sentiments.”
A new PHC has come up at Botekasa while the ones at Kotgul and Maseli have been upgraded. Roads such as Malewada-Yangalkheda, Korchi-Bodena and Ramgadh-Malewada, too, have been completed.
“All this has become possible only due to intensive policing,” said a contractor working in Gadchiroli for many years. “We had seen trying times when our equipment would get destroyed and the work would drag for years or even be abandoned. It’s such a relief now.”
“We have worked hard in the area to check Naxals. We have had no information of their movements in the majority of north Gadchiroli areas in the past six months,” said IGP (Nagpur range) Ravindra Kadam, who along with SP Suvez Haq has scripted the Gadchiroli effort.
“We have four police stations and four outposts in Wadsa, Korchi and Kurkheda. Also, we have CRPF support. We continue to intensively patrol the area in a 15-km radius of each of these police centres to keep Naxals at bay,” said Wadsa SDPO Sachin Pandkar.
Gadchiroli police have developed a network to gather information and have killed 36 Naxals in operations over the past 18 months. Operations in Gadchiroli and Orissa came in for praise at a recent Centre-states conclave on LWE.
“But we know we have a long way still to go. Conditions are still not as amenable in southern and southeastern parts. We hope to make a mark there too,” said collector Ranjit Kumar.
“We have to acknowledge that these parts are more difficult to work in. Naxals are very strongly rooted there. But we are working there. Maybe we can liberate these areas too sooner than later,” said Kadam.