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Business hit in Lalgarh

June 24, 2009 12:03 IST

Economy has taken a backseat in restive Lalgarh where security forces have launched a crackdown to reclaim territory from Maoist-backed tribals.

Business establishments, shops, small factories, transport services and even central government programmes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are not functioning due to the strife between the Maoists and security forces.

Tribals are unable to enter forests to collect kendu leaves which they sell for a living for fear of being rounded up by security forces.

Admitting that restoration of faith among the business community and the villagers was necessary, West Midnapore district magistrate N S Nigam told PTI that 'until they feel they are safe, it is difficult to resume normal business'.

"We are beginning the process of confidence building measures like providing relief to the people," he said.

Banks, petrol pumps and public transport system have also been affected for the last eight months due to frequent bandhs in the area.

The Maoists and PCPA activists after taking control of Lalgarh and adjoining villages, had initiated some parallel job schemes allegedly funded by extortion money.

This had benefited the people in the jungles and adjoining villages for sometime through work like constructing kutcha road, digging ponds and boring tubewells.

However, after a few months this work also stopped, leaving the villagers high and dry as they were unable to take the benefit of any government scheme as the administration has been non existent here in the vast area since November.

The only government department that could work without much hindrance during this last eight month's unrest was the forest department.

DFO of this range Ashish Samanta said, "We had provided work to the villagers for plantation till a week before the police entered Lalgarh this month."

He also said that Rs two crore was spent on plantation and other activities.

"We are suffering due to the numerous bandhs called by People's Committee Against Police Atrocities and the Maoists . . . There have been at least 50 to 60 bandhs this year," a resident of Moupal said on condition of anonymity.

"We had hoped that after the security forces arrive, our lives would get better, but things have turned worse and we are facing more harassment," he said.

Amitava Roy in Lalgarh, West Bengal
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