Rare visit to feudal zone turned rebel turf

Ranchi, March 22: Union home secretary R.K. Singh today visited Chak village in Manatu, met local residents and laid the foundation stone for transformers in the Palamau block that is etched in popular imagination as the home of ruthless zamindars and is now a Maoist den.

Singh's visit ' being considered one of the most high-profile ones to a red turf after Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh's Saranda recce ' was kept under wraps till yesterday evening.

After arriving at Ranchi's Birsa Munda Airport in a special flight this morning, he air-dashed to Chak, over 250km from Ranchi.

"Chak holds strategic importance for anti-Naxalite operations, as the area happens to be a transit route for armed rebels who sneak into either Jharkhand or Bihar. Forests in Urur, Kamlanagar and Balahi provide safe route to rebels," said a senior police officer, welcoming Singh's visit.

"The home secretary went to a CRPF picket in Chak, where JAP jawans are also deputed. Later, he laid the foundation stone of two transformers in Chak and Manatu for which district administration has earmarked about Rs 2 lakh under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP)," Palamau deputy commissioner Pooja Singhal told The Telegraph.

Singh also met district officials for an hour at the picket and discussed anti-Naxalite strategies, besides reviewing plans to set up nine proposed police stations in the district.

Singhal told the secretary that while land hurdles for setting up the police stations had been solved, 40 acres were also provided for setting up group headquarters of the CRPF along the national highway between Manika and Satbarwa.

Villagers, meanwhile, complained to Singh about poor electricity, road and health infrastructure. When Singh enquired, district officials assured him that doctors from primary health centres in Manatu would visit twice Chak health sub-centre twice a week from now on.

After returning to Ranchi in the afternoon, Singh held a review meeting with the state police brass. He said, "I am satisfied with ongoing anti-Naxalite operations in Jharkhand the Centre will send more security personnel to the state."

In 2009, Maoists had blown up Manatu and Chak middle schools where security forces used to camp. Chak Bazaar was closed between October 2009 and April 2010 following a Maoist diktat, while SP Anup T. Mathew's bodyguard was killed during a rebel attack in May 2010.