Villagers pick up guns for a road

Gun-toting men are not an unusual sight in rural Bihar. But the men who have lined up along a road in Chilbildih have a unique mission.

They just want to ensure that the road is built—that's what they have been demanding for years.

They armed themselves and began guarding the 7.53-km road from Dandwa to the Madaee river after contractors refused to take up the project because of Maoist terror threats.

"I have never seen a road here in my lifetime," said 70-year-old Basudeo Yadav of Chilbildih as he watched the road-rollers move on.

The road began its journey in 1979 but the work was abandoned. In 1997-98, the government began construction of a 4-km stretch but it stopped after 1 km.

Under pressure from the residents and the local MLA, the Rural Engineering Organisation (REO) of the road department finally floated a tender for construction in December 2006. But no contractor was ready to take up the work because of the Maoist threat. "We approached some contractors and assured them that we will provide security and they agreed. Finally, the main contractor sub-contracted the work to us and we accepted it as a challenge," said Vijay Bahadur, president of the anti-Naxal front formed by the residents. The front has brought in labourers and hired machines for the work.

Construction started last month and the residents have provided round-the-clock cover to the men and machines. They have roped in all the licensed arms from the area and even from their relatives elsewhere. "This road is very important for us. We have got it after a long battle. Now we don't want to lose it at any cost," said Guddu Singh pointing out that the Naxals have demanded a levy of 5 per cent from a budget of Rs 2.3 crore for the road.

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