Integrated approach needed in tackling red insurgency


Security personnel guards a post in Barsur, Chattisgarh, where Maoists dominate thousands of miles of territory. NYT

Take the case of the mini civil war around Lalgarh in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district. It is reported that the revolt of the Lalgarh villagers was a consequence of the overbearing and ruthless tactics adopted by the state police in trying to uncover the perpetrators of the land mine attack on the CM's convoy in November, 2008. But the ground reality is much more disturbing.

Lulled by the CPM’s continuous victory at the hustings, the firmly entrenched cadre in the rural areas not only shied away from reporting villagers’ agony to senior party functionaries but even became rapacious, carving out personal cuts from the meager development pie.

No ground could have been more fertile for the shadowy Maoists and their overground sympathisers to move in.

As the recently arrested Chhatradhar Mahato, convenor of the local resistance group, People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, is reported to have said: “If the state government had done 10 percent of the work we did, the situation would have been different. What is the use of an administration which is paralysed and corrupt?”

Can the Maoists be dislodged by police action, as Chidambaram is hoping to do? I doubt it. By and large, the training given to our police and the tactics adopted by them are suited for maintaining law and order in urban areas where logistics and communications present no problem.

In the Maoists’ jungle strongholds, the police are like “babes in the wood”. The Maoists, can play cat and mouse with the police in the forests. If pressed too hard, they can melt into the villages where they are indistinguishable from the ordinary inhabitants. No wonder, till date, the kill ratio in most police-Maoist  encounters has been in favour of the latter.  

Poor governance at the grassroots is the main cause of rural folk supporting or joining insurgency. This faulty governance could take many forms, such as neglect of local development work, denial of justice, partiality or brutality in policing, corruption and extortion by local government functionaries, denial of proper compensation and rehabilitation in case of displacement, inadequate or totally absent basic health and education facilities and the like.

One cause for the above is the focus of the political/administrative establishment on urban affairs. This is partly because of the ease of governing cities, relative to far flung rural regions and partly due to the pressure that our urban-centric media can bring to bear on problems in their vicinity. 

Corrupt politicos

It is a fact that nowadays most politicians who win elections first concentrate on gathering as much pelf as possible, in terms of land, money, higher educational institutions etc, establishing their kith and kin in places of power and ensuring that their progeny are placed well up on the ladder of political hierarchy. Catering to the needs of the under-developed denizens of their own constituencies is a last priority.
The second trend that needs correction is the one-way seniority march of bureaucrats from the rural backwaters to the urban havens of power. What does this mean? The junior-most, with little experience and even less power, are at the frontline where decision and implementation is most needed and the seniors bask in the sunshine of political bigwigs in the capital.

Nothing is dared and nothing ventured during the backwoods posting which is just endured
The third point of weakness is the total neglect of training that should be given to the junior government functionaries in handling programmes like the NREGS, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, mid-day meal scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme etc which directly impinge on the welfare of the rural folk.

Not only does this result in a distortion of the schemes at the receiving end but also pipeline losses which account for a major portion of the outlay.

The net result is poor coverage and resentment among the people, which can translate into conversion towards insurgency. 

The fourth disability is the reluctance of state governments to pass on real planning and financial powers to the panchayats. This results in villagers not being able to embark on development projects which they consider important to improve their living standards. The consequent frustration can lead to anti-government emotions. 

The fifth issue that has to be addressed is the flow of benefits to the local populace from the exploitation of the mineral wealth in the region. The areas under Maoist dominance in the eastern states are rich in minerals. So far, the practice has been for the benefits to flow out of the area with a few crumbs of minor employment thrown to the locals.

The Prime Minister is right in characterising the red insurgency as the greatest threat to the integrity of the nation. But, as is obvious from the above, police action is only part of the long term solution.

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