With the two-day deadline by the Maoists closing in, there is still no report of Orissa's Malkangiri district collector, who was kidnapped on Wednesday.
Demanding a halt to anti-Naxal operations and freeing of jailed compatriots, Maoists kidnapped Malkangiri district collector R V Krishna even as authorities on Thursday launched "back channel" efforts for release of the 30-year-old IAS officer.
On Thursday, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on phone and asked him to make all efforts for safe return of the 2005 batch IAS officer, officials said. The Naxalites have set a two-day deadline for meeting their demands.
Officials in Bhubaneswar said that the state government has contacted Naxal sympathiser and balladeer Varavara Rao and social activist Swami Agnivesh for help to get the collector freed.
The incident took place when Krishna was on a visit to the remote Chitrakonda area, a Maoist stronghold about 85 km from here, to attend a camp for local development, police said. It is perhaps the first-ever abduction of an IAS officer in Orissa by the Naxalites.
The Orissa Chief Minister reviewed the situation with state Chief Secretary B K Patnaik, Home Secretary U N Behera and other top officials and said that the government was evaluating all options and monitoring the case.
"I appeal for early release of the young and energetic officer, who is known for his hard work among the poor and the tribals," the Chief Minister told reporters.
In Delhi, Home Secretary G K Pillai said, "I think it will take some time (for the release) because the area is quite cut-off but back channel efforts are underway... but we are quite confident of getting him back."
He said, "In the limited area if the operation is to be stopped or not, the state government is fully competent to take a view. It has been done in Chhattisgarh a few days ago where for 48 hours the operation was suspended to enable the release of abducted policemen."
Krishna was taken hostage after he went from a public interaction camp held at Badapada bordering Andhra Pradesh to inspect a culvert on a road nearby on a motorcycle along with two junior engineers and another person, Chitrakonda Tehsildar D Gopal Krishnan said.
While the collector and a junior engineer were held hostage, two others reached Badapada late on Wednesday night with a letter and handed it over to senior officials, he said.
Strongly condemning the abduction, Pillai said, "I don't think there is need for any operation for his release. I am sure that the local support that he has and the state government will be able to negotiate and get his release.
"What the Maoists are doing is anti-national. That (operation) will remain. There is no question of stopping the operations (in other areas)," he said.