The central government is increasing its money and muscle power to rein in the armed leftist rebels who claim to be fighting for the rights of the tribes in the forest belt across nine Indian states, official sources said.
The home ministry has allocated Rs.580 crore ($130 million) for the current fiscal under the non-plan security-related expenditure scheme (SRE) for the Maoist-affected districts in the nine Maoist-hit states, the sources said. The government has decided to raise the number of its focus districts to 60 from the current 35.
The new focus districts, according to the sources, are in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.The original allocation was Rs.80 crore, but the SRE scheme, which is over and above the planned expenditure, allows the government to raise the spending in order to supplement the efforts of the states to deal with the Leftist insurgency problem.
"Over Rs.200 crore has already been released under SRE," an official familiar with developments told IANS. He said that over Rs.320 crore would be released before March.
SRE would include expenditure on logistic details and camp facilities for security forces, hiring of vehicles, helicopters, weapons or communication equipment, building road connectivity and bridges.
It also includes the ex-gratia grant paid to families of the victims of Maoist violence, special training given to police personnel and provision of insurance for police personnel involved in anti-Maoist operations.
The sources said the government was also contemplating recruiting 12,000 more SPOs. The salary of these security personnel -- whose services are not considered a regular employment for any legal purposes - will also be raised substantially from Rs.1,500.
SPOs are key in fighting the Leftist rebels as they are mostly tribal youths and have local geographical knowledge that helps security forces conduct their operations.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram at a review meeting with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) earlier this week had hinted at honing the central government's anti-Maoist strategy.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly described Maoist rebels living in the jungles and tribal areas of eastern and central area as the country's "biggest internal security threat".
According to home ministry data, nearly 1,000 people were killed in violence linked to the rebels last year. They included over 575 civilians.
The nine states where Maoists have influence cut a wide swathe across India and include parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.