Maoist blockade call chokes southern lifeline

BHUBANESWAR: Amidst heightened Maoist threat in the rural hinterland and the `economic blockade’ for the next two days, buses stopped plying along the Berhampur-Rayagada route on Sunday. Both OSRTC and private operators are unlikely to take any risk in view of the blockade call by the CPI(Maoist) after its cadre Subhashree Das was arrested.

The Bhubaneswar zone of OSRTC has decided not to ply any of its buses on Berhampur-Rayagada route and has sought clearances from the district collectors and SPs before restarting operation.

Similarly, it would not ply buses to Malkangiri though the last bus operated on Sunday. Given the heightened insecurity in the southern district where Maoists call the shots, the rebels have laid siege to Jeypore-Malkangiri road without any resistance whatsoever from the State Police in the past. On Saturday night, the Berhampur-Rayagada route was blocked by felled trees. Bus communication to many places was affected in Ganjam, Gajapati and Rayagada.

The OSRTC sources said the operator is exploring possibilities of plying to Jeypore and Nabarangpur through Andhra Pradesh routes. “That appears safe and will help keep road communication options alive as plying through Rayagada is fraught with risk which we don’t want,’’ said an official.

Last month, Maoists had blocked four buses along Berhampur-Rayagada in the middle of the night and asked the passengers to alight.

The OSRTC apart, the private operators have faced a similar fate. Though the private buses do not ply in southern districts, it has some density in Ganjam and Gajapati but in apprehension of attack by the radicals, they too stopped plying on the routes, Orissa Private Bus Operators’ Association convener Debashis Nayak said.

After its cadre Subhashree Das was arrested, the CPI(Maoist) called for an economic blockade on January 25 and 26.

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