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Maoists’ Attacks on Infrastructure

Dr. P. V. Ramana was Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • February 20, 2009

    Rebels of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have been repeatedly targeting infrastructure, which are soft targets. The targets of their attacks include telecommunication towers, Railways and power transmission centres and lines, to name a few.

    A media report of February 12, 2009 claimed that in the past three months the Maoists had attacked cellular communication towers of all major operators in Bihar, including those of the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Reliance Communication and Airtel –– in Rohtas, Gaya and Aurangabad districts. Media reports further held that in the first two weeks of February, the rebels had blown-up at least six cellular communication towers in Gaya and Aurangabad districts. According to statistics tabled in the Lok Sabha, on December 16, 2008, a total of 62 telecommunication towers have been damaged in Maoist blasts between 2005 and November 30, 2008, in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa.

     
    2005
    2006
    2007
    January 1 to November 30, 2008
    Andhra Pradesh
    5
    2
    0
    1
    Bihar
    0
    0
    0
    14
    Maharashtra
    1
    1
    1
    1
    Chhattisgarh
    2
    1
    3
    14
    Jharkhand
    0
    0
    0
    9
    Orissa
    0
    1
    2
    4
    Total
    8
    5
    6
    43

    Source: Annexure to Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 2665, December 16, 2008

    As the above statistics indicate, 2008 witnessed the largest number of attacks on telecommunication towers. The rebel motive for such attacks is not far to seek. They are meant to disrupt communication amongst the security forces, as well as between ‘police informants’ –– who have been provided cellular telephones –– and the security forces, in order that operations against the rebels get impaired.

    In 2007, there were a total of 26 attacks on the Railways. During the previous year, there were a total of nine attacks on the Railways. Further, according to statistics made available in Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 3240, September 6, 2007, in the attacks in 2006 the Railways incurred a loss of nearly Rs. 5 crores, while in 2007, during an ‘economic blockade’ alone that was imposed by the Maoists, the Railways incurred a loss of over Rs. 3.89 crores.

    In 2008 this trend of attacking the Railways continued. For instance, in the first two weeks of April, the Maoists had launched three attacks on the Railways. In all these years, the nature of attacks included holding-up trains, blasting railway tracks, setting railway stations and wagons on fire, damaging other railway property, abducting railway personnel and snatching wireless sets, and looting weapons from personnel of the Railway Protection Force.

    Peculiarly enough, a vast majority of the attacks on the Railways had taken place in Bihar and Jharkhand, and a lone incident each was reported in West Bengal and Orissa. However, Chhattisgarh’s is a different case. On a number of occasions, the Maoists had blown-up railway tracks and burnt down goods wagons and railway stations in the Bastar region along the Kirandaul-Visakhapatnam line of the East Coast Railway (ECoR), which caters to ferrying iron ore mined in the Bailadila mines of Dantewada district to Visakhapatnam port.

    The largest loss from attacks on infrastructure was witnessed when the rebels blew-up three 132 KVA high tension (HT) towers in Narayanpur district of Bastar, on May 31, 2007. As a result, six districts were thrown into darkness for a week; normal power distribution in the affected area was impaired for a whole fortnight; and functioning of hospitals, communication system and rail traffic, besides iron ore mines, was badly affected. The total estimated loss on account of this act of destruction was a whooping Rs 2,000 crores!

    The rebels repeated this mindless act of destruction once again on June 5, 2008, in Dantewada district. They blew-up two 220 KVA HT towers which plunged 15,000 villages in four districts into darkness. At that time, the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister described this wanton act of destruction as ‘unprecedented, grim and inhuman’.

    Evidently, these recurring attacks on infrastructure are mindless acts of wanton violence, and are meant to display the violent capacities of the rebels to cause extensive damage to soft targets. Despite the best efforts of the government, it would virtually be impossible to keep secure all infrastructure across the length and breadth of Maoists’ areas of control. Perhaps, as part of the Public Perception Management policy that has been put in place by the Union government, each of the affected States could widely disseminate through print –– including pamphleteering and posters –– audio and visual media the destructive designs of the Maoists –– including their intention to hold a few districts to ransom for a few days by blasting power transmission lines –– and the consequent financial loss these entail to property, and more importantly the hardship they cause to the people of the affected regions.

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