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Maoist strikes take huge toll on infrastructure

delhi Updated: Oct 14, 2009 17:13 IST

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Having given up urban warfare a long time ago, Maoist guerrillas have taken to destroying the country's infrastructure in rural and outlying areas with a vengeance, officials say.

Frequent attacks on mobile telephone towers, small railway stations and power plants as well as electricity generators are worrying the government and the private sector.

It is clear that the aim of the Maoists is to hurt India's economy.

When the Maoist movement began in India in 1967, the guerrillas had a national presence although the core areas were West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

The Maoists, or Naxalites, were active in numerous cities. Killings and counter-killings were endemic till security forces crushed the Maoists and they split up into several factions in the 1970s.

Now, the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has concentrated its energy in the mineral-rich and mostly impoverished states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa.

These are precisely the states where industry is coming up in a big way in the liberalisation era.

As the authorities prepare for their biggest offensive against the Maoists in the rebel citadel, the number of attacks on infrastructure and public properties has shot up.

"Strikes on infrastructure and public properties in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal have led to the loss of crores of rupees. Economic activity has been severely disrupted. This needs to stop," said a senior home ministry official.

According to one estimate, attacks on economic targets rose from 70 in 2006 to 85 in 2007 and 110 in 2008. They number over 70 till August this year.

Rail tracks and mobile phone towers are favourite targets. This was seen on Tuesday as well, when Maoists unleashed violence in Jharkhand and Bihar.

Intelligence officials said attacks on security personnel, state-owned vehicles and police stations were nothing new.

"They (Maoists) are trying to destroy communication networks in districts so that security personnel cannot get information on their movement," said an intelligence official.

This has worried operators, some run by private companies, who are demanding round-the-clock security for installations in remote areas. But this would tie down a very large number of policemen.

Rail lines are easy targets too as they simply cannot be protected all over the country.

"In the last three years, there must have been at least 150 attacks on railway stations, rail tracks and even trains," said one official.