Bhubaneswar: Left-wing extremism touched a new high in Odisha with vast areas turning safe havens for the red rebels marauding from neighbouring provinces in 2011, seen as a year of calamities and scams in the state.

It was a historic year for the state as its name was changed from Orissa to Odisha and its language from Oriya to Odia following Presidential assent and gazette notification giving shape to a bill in this regard passed by the Parliament.

Throwing an open challenge to the BJD government, Maoists abducted R Vineel Krishna, collector of Naxal-hit Malkangiri district, and an engineer from remote Chitrakonda area bordering Andhra Pradesh when the IAS officer was attending a public function on February 16.

As the abduction exposed the fragility in security preparedness to deal with the ultras, it followed high drama involving hard negotiations for about 10 days by Maoist-selected mediators to secure his release.

After hard bargaining, the collector and engineer were set free by their captors as the state government had to concede to a number of their demands including release of several hardcore ultras and sympathisers.

Another blow to the anti-Naxal drive was the killing of sitting BJD MLA Jagabandhu Majhi in Maoist stronghold of Umerkote area in Nawarangpur district, adjoining Chhattisgarh on September 24.

As vast stretch of red corridor in Odisha turned a safe sanctuary for Maoists on the run from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, the state was slammed by the Centre which asked it to learn from the experience of others on how to combat Left-wing extremism.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, during a visit to the state in November, said the level of Maoist violence was still "unacceptably high" despite deployment of about 10,000 Central armed forces.

While the number of casualty of civilian and security force stood at about 50 during the year, about 60 police station areas spread over 19 of the 30 districts in the state were hit by Left-wing extremism.

The ultras often attacked government buildings, mobile towers and people besides targeting security personnel and triggering landmine blasts in vulnerable areas as the number of Naxal-affected districts rose from 17 to 19.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, however, claimed there was decline in the rate of Maoist-related casualty in Odisha in comparison to the previous years.

It was scams galore in the year. The multi-crore mining scam continued to rock the state throughout the year with Opposition parties accusing the BJD government of shielding the main culprits engaged in plundering precious mineral resources from the state.

While the Shah Commission appointed by the Centre to probe illegal mining activities in different states visited major mineral rich areas of Odisha in December, there was vociferous demand by Opposition parties for a CBI inquiry into scandals.

Finding involvement of bureaucrats in illegal mining, Justice (retd) M B Shah heading the panel felt that direct evidence was needed to pin politicians.

Another major scam involving supply of infected and substandard 'dal' to children and pregnant women under mid-day meal and Supplementary Nutrition Programme rocked the state in early part of the year, costing then women and child development minister Pramila Mallick her post.

The state was also jolted by a new scandal in the form of land scam with leaders of BJP and other parties alleging gross misuse of discretionary quota for allotment of land and houses in places like Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

The issue snowballed into a major controversy, forcing a minister to surrender a house allotted to him. The state government also decided to do away with the provision of discretionary quota for allotment by agencies like Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA).

(Agencies)