Still cosmetic

With the clearing of decks for the setting up of a unified command structure in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal — the four states worst-hit by Maoist violence — India’s anti-Maoist strategy can expect to see better co-ordination between the Centre and states. The unified command will be headed by the chief secretaries of the four states and include a retired major-general. Investigations into recent Maoist attacks have revealed poor co-ordination between various security forces, especially between central paramilitary forces and the state police. The unified command structure that exists in Assam and Jammu & Kashmir is reported to have played an important role in enabling the government wrest the advantage from the militants. The Centre will be setting up more police stations and recruiting more police personnel in Maoist areas. Besides, it is providing helicopters for logistical purposes. Simultaneously, the government has announced an integrated action plan for infrastructure development in 34 Maoist-hit districts.

The proposed unified command structure and development plans announced by the Centre suggest a new resolve in taking on the Maoists. However, its success will depend on whether those manning these structures can put aside their egos, share information and work together. An issue that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has drawn attention to merits attention. While there are 83 Maoist affected districts in the country, only 34 have been chosen for the integrated development plan. The government should reconsider its decision to exclude 48 Maoist districts as there is a likelihood of local anger growing in these districts.

The Centre’s announcement of new structures and more investment to tackle Maoism sounds impressive. However, it is still only tinkering with the issues that underlie the conflict. The main cause of tribal alienation is loss of land and displacement. No initiatives have been taken on land reforms, mining policy and tribal forest rights, issues that lie at the core of the conflict. To many tribals, the rash of roads coming up is to facilitate movement of troops and transport of minerals. What use does a road have to him when his survival itself is under threat? What use are school buildings when troops live in them? Constructing infrastructure is important. But it will be meaningful only when tribals’ physical survival, their homes and means of livelihood are ensured.

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