By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, July 26, 2018: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday dedicated the much-awaited Gurupriya bridge virtually ending Maoist dominance in Malkanigiri district.

The bridge will connect 151 villages across the Balimela reservoir with the rest of district and officials hope the bridge will end decades of isolation that helped Maoists retain their bastion in the region.

A decade ago, on June 29, 2008 Maoists killed 37 security personnel in the Balimela Reservoir. Less than a month later, Maoists triggered a blast on a mine protection vehicle in the same Malkangiri district, killing 17 security personnel. All this was said to be possible due to lack of facilities to cross the reservoir to carry out operations against Maoists.

Built at a cost of Rs 187.25 crore in a record time of four years in Chitrakonda, the 910-metre long Gurupriya bridge fulfills that long desired communication linakge and reach out to around 30,000 people of about 150 villages, who have had an isolated existence, in eight gram panchayats in the cut-off regions in and around Kalimela and Chitrakonda reservoirs.

“The term cut-off is history from this historic day. With renewed esteem, they will now be Swabhiman Areas,” Patnaik said.

“Gurupriya Setu signifies a resurgent Odisha. It will transform lives in 151 villages that were cut-off for five decades. It is not just a bridge, it will be the identity and Swabhiman of Malkangiri. I dedicate this special project to the people of Odisha and India,” he tweeted.

The Chief Minister also announced a special package of Rs 100 crore for the development of the area signaling the end of return of Maoists to the area.

“It is a testimony to our commitment to integrate all parts of Odisha with the mainland and thereby to prosperity. It is our dream come true,” he added.

He also paid homage to the people who sacrificed their lives for the bridge.

“My homage to those martyred for the bridge. Peace is of utmost importance for progress. Gurupriya Setu is a harbinger of peace. I appeal to left wing extremists in the region to forsake violence and embrace progress that the bridge brings to the region,” said Patnaik.

The bridge has been built at an estimated cost of Rs 187.25 crore.

Patnaik had laid the foundation stone of the bridge in 2000. However, Maoists were opposing the construction of the bridge, delaying the project.

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