Battalions of para-military forces will stand guard around the naxal-affected mines of India’s iconic Bhilai steel plant as government workers slog it out in the pits.
Twelve battalions of BSF, anti-naxalite Cobra force beside Chhattisgarh policemen will straddle the Rowghat iron ore mines in the state to ensure Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) is able to feed its largest steel plant.
The security forces will also patrol a 95 kilometre railway line that is being built to move the ore through Kanker and Narayanpur districts. The Union home ministry, in a meeting with the top brass of SAIL and the state government, last month was informed that Bhilai would not have iron ore in 4-5 years if these measures were not undertaken. Rowghat has an estimated reserves of over 500 million tonne of iron ore. The steel plant expects to increase steel production capacity to seven million tonnes per annum by March 2013 from the current five million tonnes a year.
The mine has been out of bounds because of naxalite menace. Approximately, over 2,000 hectares of area in Kanker and Narayanpur districts, strongholds of naxalites, have got necessary clearances but security concerns have blocked work from commencing.
“(Home secretary RK Singh) asserted that this was a project of national importance and a test of government’s resolve against the designs of the naxalites,” a source present in the meeting said. The presence of security forces would ensure Rail Vikas Nigam Limited can lay railway tracks for the project. Depending on the need for additional forces, the government may also deploy newly-raised CRPF battalions for the purpose, a source said.