Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Dealing with the Naxals - Part 2

Different people have different views on Maoists. There are those who sympathize with them by saying that Maoists have forever been deprived of the economic and social growth that rest of the country has experienced and hence are trying to fight for their fundamental rights.  Others are of the opinion that Maoists are insurgents who under the disguised banner of fighting for their people are actually targeting to overthrow the State. Both these views are apparently true in their own respective standpoints. It is a fact that economic and social growth has till today largely ignored the areas from where these Maoists typically derive. But it is also a reality that over the years the Maoists agenda has shifted from protecting or providing their community to acquiring power through an armed campaign.

The Naxalites operate in about 60 districts spread in a total of 9 states in India. These 9 states are- Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odhisa, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The term ‘Red Corridor’ is often used to identify this impoverished region.

Many of the Maoists recruits come from the deprived tribal communities who have been neglected by the government ever since independence, thus leaving them to be a part of the Naxalite movement as the only option which provides them with a ray of hope in the absence of any convincing program or policy being offered by the government. Maoist group leaders are largely educated and come from urban backgrounds. Thus, while the Maoist leaders are motivated largely by their desire to seek political power through a Maoist style people’s war, their cadres fighting for them are motivated by genuine grievances arising from economic and social hardships. 

Tackling the Maoists: The two views mentioned earlier correspond to two approaches on how to deal with the Naxalites. They are:-
1. The Socio-Economic Development Approach 2. Law and Order Approach. 
Socio-Economic Development Approach: In 2003-2004 the government started the Backward Districts Initiative (BDI) and the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) under which 55 of the worst affected districts in 9 states were to be provided with funds to a total amount of Rs. 2475 crores to tackle the problem. The central government enhanced funds for Schemes for Special Infrastructure (SIS) to Rs. 374 crore in 2011.  The prime objective of these schemes was to accelerate the socio-economic development in these areas. Various state governments also allocate funds to the areas affected by Naxals. For example, the government of Chhattisgarh announced houses worth Rs. 1 lakh and employment to the kin who got killed in the Maoist violence. The Jharkhand government increased the insurance amount to be given to the kin of jawans to 21.5 lakhs from 10 lakhs. States like Jharkhand and Orissa have offered huge incentives to the Naxals who surrender themselves. Various schemes launched by the government have been put in place in Naxal affected areas for socio-economic development such as:-

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)- for rural road connectivity National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP)- is being implemented in 330 districts affected by Naxalism for wage-epmloyment. Bharat Nirman National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) Sarva Shikhsa Abhyan (SSA) Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)along with many other schemes of the Ministry of Rural Development, Agriculture, Panchayati Raj and Tribal Affairs.

The government has also made some specific laws to facilitate a better living for the poverty ridden people in Naxalite hit areas. These are:-

Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007: The main aim of this legislation is to minimize the displacement of people who lose their land for industrial growth. 
Forests Right Act 2006: This act recognizes the rights of the Schedule tribes who have been living in the forests for years but their rights have still not been recognized. 
Chhattisgarh Special Public Securities Act, 2006: This bill provides definition of unlawful activities, declaring an organization unlawful, formation of an advisory board wherever the state government feels the need for its establishment.

Miserable socio economic conditions of the people in the ‘Red Corridor’ area is indubitably the prime cause of the Naxalite movement.

Law and Order Approach: As the name implies this approach basically looks at countering Naxalism with the use of Police forces. 

The government has launched a Police Modernization Scheme in areas affected by Naxal insurgency. Huge sums of money have been provided to the state governments by the central government to modernize their equipment and gear including latest communication devices, vehicles and infrastructure facility. States have also been instructed to fortify the police stations that are susceptible to Naxal attacks. Government has provided the forces with Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV) due to increased use of IED’s by the Naxalites.

The state police forces are also assisted by Central Paramilitary Forces deployed on long term basis by the government to help state governments to fight against the Naxals. In order to discourage the youth from the path of Militancy the government has revised the recruiting guidelines of the Central Paramilitary Forces to now permit 40% recruitment. A special force of 14000 personnel consisting of Central Paramilitary Forces, state police and ex servicemen from areas affected by Naxalism has also been raised by the government. Indian Reserve battalions have been set up by the government to strengthen the security network in the states. These forces along with providing additional security provide youth with employment opportunities.

States have also established their own special security force like Andhra Pradesh has the “Greyhounds” which are said to be one of the most effective police force to combat the Naxalite problem. Even the central government has formed a special force to deal with Naxalism in any state—Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA). Last year, the Central government raised the Security Related Expenditure (under SRE the union government reimburses in full the money spent on anti-Maoist operations and police infrastructure improvement) in the Maoists affected states from Rs. 331 crore to Rs. 598 crore.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has time and again referred to the Naxalites as the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country. Since 2006 the government has followed a two-pronged strategy of ensuring security and development in Left Wing Extremists (LWE) affected areas that can be attributed to the decrease in the number of killings in 2011 by LWE but we’re still far away from eradicating the Maoist menace. Lack of coordination between the Centre and the State is the major impediment. Law and order comes under the state list and thus is primarily the responsibility of the state to handle the Naxal militancy. The Centre acts on the request of the State to provide assistance in the form of funds, paramilitary forces and other central reserve forces etc. But the high level of corruption and inefficiency in the state security apparatus abuses whatever measures the central government introduces. It was once reported that many of the highly trained commandos specially sent for anti-Maoist insurgency operations were scooped up by VIP ministers and politicians who wanted to be surrounded by impressive security guards. As is seen, the states are unable to use the assistance provided by the Centre in an expeditious way due to corruption or the lack of a political will. A recent example is the lack of trust between the states and the Centre over the creation of National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC). Chief Ministers of states like Odhisa, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal have been alleging that NCTC would hurt the federal structure of the country and curb states’ powers. 

The leaders of the Maoist groups realize that social integration and increased mobility of the rural population will lead to progress and consequently withdrawal of the masses from Naxalite activities. Therefore they are willing to cross all inhuman limits in order to keep development and progress out of their controlled areas. Such a situation demands that both the approaches viz. 'Socio-Economic development' and 'Ensuring Security' to the people should be carried out in a weighed and synchronized manner. One cannot be given up in lieu of another. Socio-economic development is an imperative but as we have seen in the past the incapacity of the state police to take on the Left Wing Extremists has been a major hindrance in development process. Therefore, ensuring security and development should be a hand in hand process to attain the desired outcome. We have to follow a holistic approach with development initiatives as an integral part of the security approach. We have to accept the fact that this process is bound to be a gradual one and have to shape ourselves accordingly.  

The government has to instill faith in the people that they will be governed and cared for in a better manner than by the Naxals. The state governments have to act in a much more serious and responsible manner and use the funds available to them in an efficient way. A ruthless use of force without development measures will only backfire against the government. The tribals have already suffered a lot. They need to be assured peace in their areas. Until the government implements employment, land reform and poverty eradication programmes the Maoist insurgency cannot be controlled. The government needs to show them a change which promises them a better future. The policies and schemes needs to come out of the paper and implemented as soon as possible under the umbrella of high level security. 

Nitish Bhardwaj

@nitish9bhardwaj on Twitter

The Writer is a Civil Services aspirant and a student of Political Science

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