Special Correspondent

Security situation reviewed in three districts in West Bengal

KOLKATA: The West Bengal Government "is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and is taking all necessary steps" to check the activities of Maoists in the districts where they have a presence, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said on Monday.

At a meeting earlier, the Chief Minister reviewed the situation in the districts of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore where the Maoists have been active in recent months. Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray and Director-General of Police Subash Awasthi were present at the meeting.

The State administration has sought the deployment of additional central paramilitary forces to bolster security in the region. Presently, there are six companies of such forces in the three districts all of which share borders with Jharkhand where the Maoists are suspected to have hide-outs. A task force comprising personnel of the West Bengal and Jharkhand police has been set up to conduct joint operations against the Maoists.

On Saturday, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and district secretariat member, Rabindranath Kar, and his wife were killed by Maoist extremists in the Bandwan thana area of Purulia district. Though none has been arrested in connection with the incident so far, combining operations were continuing in the area in search of the assailants some of whom might have escaped to Jharkhand, a senior official said.

On being informed of the incident, the Chief Minister had directed Mr. Awasthi to visit the area for an on-the-spot assessment of the security arrangements made by the local authorities and the police administration to check Maoist militancy.

The CPI (M) leadership has warned party leaders in the region against possible attacks on them by Maoist militants. Over the past five years, 31 leaders and workers of the party have been killed by the extremists in more than 20 separate incidents of violence in the three districts.