Gurupriya bridge in Odisha harms tribal interests: Maoists

The CPI (Maoist) on Tuesday organised a meeting in the cut-off area (near Sileru) on the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) to protest against the construction of the Gurupriya bridge in the Naxal-affected Malkangiri district of Odisha.

As per reports from the intelligence wing, the Maoists circulated a pamphlet about a week ago inviting the adivasis in the region to attend the meeting and about 2,000 people attended it. The meeting took place a week after the Maoists killed Araku MLA Kidari Sarveswara Rao and former MLA Siveri Soma in the Dumbriguda mandal in Visakhapatnam agency.

The Maoists contended that the bridge opened by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in July would not benefit the tribals as claimed by the Odisha government.

Addressing the tribals, the Maoist leaders pointed out that ever since the construction of the bridge, the water level in the Balimela reservoir had been rising posing a threat to the adivasi farmers in many areas.

Expressing solidarity with the tribals, they assured to support them if the Odisha government failed to remove the bridge to decrease the water level in the reservoir.

Mineral wealth

The Maoists also said the Odisha government had constructed the bridge to loot the mineral wealth and alleged that to generate surplus electricity from the reservoir, the government had been storing more water.

The construction of the bridge was conceived and finalised in 1982 and it was finally constructed and opened in July. It took almost 36 years to build it as it passes through the Maoist heartland. The construction was stiffly opposed by the Maoists since beginning.

The bridge was built at a cost of Rs. 187 crore and is 910-metre long and 8.4-metre wide. It provides connectivity to about 30,000 people from 151 villages spread over eight panchayats.

The government speeded up the construction of the bridge under tight security provided by the BSF, as it not only connects the villages but also provides access to the security forces to comb the Maoist strongholds.

Apart from discussing the bridge issue, they also urged the adivasis to support their cause and join the movement.

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