A handful of rice seemed to have won half the battle for the West Bengal government when bullets and ballots failed to make much headway in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, about 250 km from Kolkata.
Hungry villagers queued up at the block development offices in Lalgarh and Goaltore in Bankura district — heartlands of Maoist insurgency — for the government dole.
They had so far been avoiding anything smelling of government, but with their sources of income having dried up, they have no option but to accept the dole.
A combined force of the Centre and the state laid siege on the area to flush out Maoist rebels, who have been virtually ruling the area for the past eight months.
The trouble stemmed from harsh police action following a Maoist attempt to bomb CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy on November 2, 2008.
Standing in queues were some — mainly from the villages in the no-police zone — who till the other day were critical about the administration.
“All we wanted was that police atrocities should stop. If the administration does something good, why shouldn’t we welcome it?” said Pranab Mahato of Pathordanga Hariharpara village inside the no-police zone.
But on Tuesday, he had told HT he would fight till death to prevent the police from entering the area.
State chief secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty himself flew down to Lalgarh on Wednesday. He told the media: “The issue here is not just providing relief, but also establishing the rule of law in the Maoist-dominated areas. We want to restore people’s confidence.”