India minister escapes rebel hit

Other News Materials 3 November 2008 09:36 (UTC +04:00)

A federal minister in India has escaped a landmine explosion set off by suspected Maoist rebels in the eastern West Bengal state, the police said.

The blast occurred barely five minutes after the car carrying Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan passed the site in Midnapore district on Sunday.

Mr Paswan was returning from an official function in the region, BBC reports.

Analysts say Maoists operate in 182 districts in India, including some in the state of West Bengal.

Senior police official Raj Kanojia told the BBC that the landmine exploded at a culvert near Baruahati village in Midnapore.

Mr Paswan was returning in a car accompanied by a convoy of vehicles from a foundation stone laying ceremony for a new private steel plant in Salboni area.

The state's chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who was also present at the function, passed the same way some 15 minutes before the blast, the police said.

The Maoists have protested against setting up the steel plant, saying it will "increase the exploitation of the local people by the big corporates".

The rebels operate mainly in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of poor peasants and landless workers.