Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Malkangiri, Aug 29:
The Maoist ambush in Odisha’s Malkangiri district on Wednesday morning, which claimed four lives, has put brakes on the construction of long-delayed Gurupriya Bridge.
Construction workers haven’t turned up at the site since the incident fearing a backlash. The deadly attack on Wednesday has again posed uncertainty over the construction of the 910-metre bridge over the Gurupriya river near Balimela reservoir which would provide direct road connectivity to 151 villages in what is known as the ‘cut-off area’.
This is not the first instance where construction workers have deserted the site. Earlier, Gammon India Limited (GIL), which had bagged the contract for the bridge construction, had abandoned the project due after a series of attacks on its men and machinery.
After GIL’s departure, tenders were floated several times for the constructin of the bridge, but there were no takers. At last, Royal Construction Company of Kolkata agreed to take up the work after it was assured of security by the BSF. It had commenced work in April this year.
The BSF has set up five camps between Janbai Ghat and Chitrakonda and conducts regular combing operations. But Wednesday’s incident has obviously shattered the confidence in the BSF’s ability to provide security to the company and its workers and machinery.
According to higher officials, the government had set a target to complete the construction of the bridge in three years. However, only 10 percent work has been accomplished so far. While 102 concrete piles were to be constructed for the bridge, only 23 have been put in place. Similarly, only one pillar has been erected out of the 23 pillars to be constructed.
Three Border Security Force (BSF) personnel and a civilian were killed in the landmine blast and exchange of fire in the cut-off area of Balimela reservoir near Palangarai ghat under Chitrakonda police station limits in Malkangiri district.
Besides, six BSF personnel, including an assistant commandant, were also seriously injured in this incident. They were first rushed to Malkangiri district hospital and later air-lifted to Visakhapatnam for treatment.
Soon after the incident, the Palangarai ghat and the adjoining areas were sealed by the BSF personnel. Movement of boat and people have been restricted for the time being and search operation has been intensified in the area.
Meanwhile, two landmines have been recovered from the forests a few metres away from the blast site.
The foundation stone for this all-important bridge was laid way back in 1982 by the then Chief Minister late JB Patnaik and again by present Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in 2000.
Initially the construction work was assigned to the Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC) and was later taken up by GIL. But GIL backed out shortly after starting work owing to repeated attacks on its men and equipment by the Red rebels.