The abysmal condition of National Highway 30 connecting Jagdalpur (District Headquarter of Bastar) to Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh via Dantewada, Sukma, Dornapal and Konta, some of the worst affected LWE areas in India is an important concern in fighting Naxals in the region.
The condition of this road is appalling, being reduced to an unmetalled road, due to constant attacks and lack of follow-up maintenance work. The acute disturbance to road transport as a consequence, raises some serious questions about the role of roads in counterinsurgency. Are roads, which are considered the lifeline of human civilization, also a critical factor in counterinsurgency? Why is this road in a state of neglect? What needs to done to protect roads in LWE-affected districts?
Why Roads are neglected in the Region?
Topography: Sukma district has shared borders with Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra and it is where the deeply forested Dandakaranya region begins. This highway is under NHAI’s maintenance contract, however, since January 2012, the Dantewada district was bifurcated to form Sukma, there has been no maintenance work on this road. This has reduced the highway to a one-lane dirt track through the thick forest accessible only by bike during monsoons. The extremists take advantage of the situation and attack and demobilize this national highway at will and without proper repairs and with the advent of monsoons, the situation only worsens.
Constant attack and Fear among locals: After the abduction of Sukma district collector, Alex Paul Menon earlier this year, the newly formed administrative district has been “pushed back at least 20 years”, in the words of a senior official from civil administration in the district. More than the repercussions of the incident, it is the fear which was instilled in the local contractors due to the brazenness of this kidnapping. None of the contractors are willing to take up the work of maintenance of the highway for the fear of...