[Watch] Odisha Collector Visits Maoist-Hit Village As Rebels Observe Martyrs’ Week

Rayagada: Even as the Maoists are observing ‘Martyrs Week’, Odisha’s Rayagada Collector Swadha Dev Singh on Monday visited an interior area of the district, considered a hotbed of the banned outfit.

The collector, accompanied by SP Vivekanand Sharma and around 20 district administration officials went to Lakhapadar under Parasali panchayat of Kalyanshinghpur block in the district. She went to the houses of the particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) in the village located near Niyamgiri hill.

She interacted with the tribals and enquired about the provision of basic amenities in the village. In order to make the tribals feel at ease and openly come out with their problems, Swadha spent almost an entire day there. She also partook ‘mandia’ (a locally produced brew) in the house of a tribal.

The villagers, who were not aware of her visit and were a bit surprised, freely expressed their issues before the collector. They pointed out the health and drinking water problems faced by them.

Later, speaking to mediapersons, the collector said there is nothing unusual about it as she has been visiting the district to interact with the people and know their condition. “I love to travel and whatever I have seen in Rayagada so far, I have liked a lot. It is a beautiful place and the people are very friendly and peace-loving. I will continue to visit all corners of the district to have first-hand information about the issues faced by the people as it is part of my duty,” she said.

Though there have been no major Maoist offensives in the district in the last few years, top officials have been avoiding visiting the remote areas where Left-wing extremists continue to have a presence with sporadic incidents being reported from time to time.

It may be mentioned here that almost 11 years back, the Maoists kidnapped the then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi on February 16, 2011. They were released after a prolonged negotiation by the mediators on February 26.

Sources said though there is no standard operating procedure (SOP) restricting officers from visiting Maoist-hit pockets when they observe Martyrs’ Week, there exists a general guideline to avoid going to their strongholds.

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