Central paramilitary forces engaged in clearing operations in Maoist-dominated Lalgarh of West Bengal since June 19 are planning to spread their operations to nearby areas to neutralise the banned outfit.

At a briefing here on Thursday, Union Home Secretary Gopal K. Pillai and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director-General A.S. Gill said the Central forces would stay in Lalgarh area “as long as it was necessary.” Asserting that the Centre was looking forward to the situation returning to normality, they said shops were open and civilian vehicles were plying at night.

Mr. Gill said the forces would soon start spreading to more areas to neutralise the activists of the banned organisation.

Describing the nearly two-month operation as successful to a large extent, Mr. Gill said there was a general improvement in the law and order situation in Lalgarh area.

“Though there is still an element of fear among the people there, they have opened up and started communicating with the Central forces. Our presence and operations in the area have had a definite impact. We will also go beyond Lalgarh,” he said without elaborating.

Mr. Gill said the Maoist cadres were armed with bombs, rifles, improvised explosive devices and country made guns.

“Their modus operandi has been to attack the forces and then retreat and hide in the jungles. We will go after them,” he added.

Giving details of the relief efforts in the Lalgarh area, Mr. Pillai said about 1 lakh people had been given 6 kg of rice each and in July alone Rs. 65 lakhs had been paid as wages under NREGA.

Mr. Pillai said 2,000 mini kits had been given to farmers for sowing paddy. Soil and water conservation works estimated at Rs. 1 crore had already started.

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