Budha Pahad (Jharkhand), Jan 27 (PTI) Hemant Soren on Friday became the first chief minister of Jharkhand to visit Budha Pahad, a hilly terrain covered by thick forest bordering Chhattisgarh which was freed from a three-decade long Maoist control last year.
Soren launched development projects worth Rs 100 crore for the area which used to shelter top Maoist leaders from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra.
“If need be, this amount can be increased to Rs 500 crore,” the CM said after reaching the hilltop in a helicopter.
Apart from this, assets such as mini tractors, pump sets and agriculture equipment worth over Rs 1.25 crore were distributed by Soren among 429 beneficiaries.
“Festive atmosphere was witnessed for the first time in Budha Pahad where terror reigned for long. Now, instead of the sounds of gunfire, there will be development,” the chief minister said.
He also made an appeal to all the youths who have been distracted from their path to shun violence and return to the mainstream.
The Rs 100-crore Budha Pahar Development Project (BPDP) will cover 11 villages of Tehri panchayat in Garhwa and 11 villages of Aksi panchayat in Latehar, Soren said addressing a gathering of villagers who belong to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups and other ST communities.
He promised villagers who had gathered in large numbers on the hilltop to provide whatever they ask for development works and urged women to show their skills by utilising forest produce.
"It has been a long struggle to free the scenic Budha Pahad converted into a dreaded place by Maoists,” he said promising to come to the place by the road next time.
A large number of landmines have been planted on all the roads leading to Budha Pahad and operations to sanitise them are on.
Soren was accompanied by Chief Secretary Sukhdev Singh and Director General of Police Neeraj Sinha, among other top officials.
‘Budha Pahad’, located along the Latehar and Garhwa districts, around 150 km from the state capital Ranchi, was freed from the red rebels’ control by security forces after over three decades in September last year.
The exercise was carried out through three special operations that were launched in April 2022.
A total of 14 Maoists were killed, while 590 others were either apprehended or had surrendered during these operations, the officials said adding that earlier attempts to drive out the red rebels from ‘Budha Pahad’ did not materialise due to its difficult terrain.
“Area of operation consisted about 50 sq km of difficult hilly terrain and thick vegetation which was further made difficult by maize of IEDs planted by Maoists,” IG Operations Amol Homkar said.
Rebel activities increased there following the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre and the People’s War Group in 2004 and 14 jawans were killed in 2012 in a land mine blast, an official said.
While Jharkhand was created in November 2000, senior officials could not remember if any chief minister visited Budha Pahad when the area was in undivided Bihar.
“Fifty-nine security personnel were martyred in Budha Pahad area over the years due to Maoist activities while 64 policemen were severely injured. Maoists also killed 42 villagers and injured many,” the DGP said.
He said 11 top Maoists were arrested from areas near Budha Pahad in 2022 during operation 'Double Bull'.
He said the Budha Pahad had been a training centre and hideout of Maoists and its Politburo members, central committee members and special area committee members who used to control Maoist activities in several states from here.
There will be a permanent camp for the security forces at Budha Pahad.
After Budha Pahad was freed from Maoists in September last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah termed it a "historic milestone" in the internal security domain of the country. PTI NAM NAM NN NN