Friday, December 14, 2007

Centre plans consensus in Naxal-hit states

14 Dec, 2007, 0246 hrs IST,Bharti Jain, TNN

NEW DELHI: The Centre will exhort the four states worst affected by Left-wing extremist violence — Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa — to seriously start implementing the ambitious police modernisation plans, including the separate plan for strengthening of their special branches, that they had submitted earlier this year and for which the Centre has already released funds.

The initiative, first taken by Union home secretary Madhukar Gupta who wrote to the four states in mid-2007 seeking dedicated and detailed plans for modernisation of their intelligence gathering mechanisms, was duly followed up by the states. So much so, the Centre even released the funds by September against the plans submitted by the states.

However, the states have been lax in utilising these funds and are yet to create more posts in the special branches or procure the additional surveillance equipment sanctioned by the Centre.

The strengthening of the special branches is seen as crucial to counter-Naxal operations since timely and actionable intelligence not only helps ward off potential attacks but acts as a force-multiplier in cracking down on the big fish in their jungle hideouts. The Centre has been taking up with the four states the implementation of their intelligence modernisation plans, reminding them that with December already on, there was little time left before the end of the financial year.

At the special taskforce meeting on Naxalism on Thursday and Friday, to be chaired by special secretary in the MHA M L Kumawat, the Centre will also try to evolve a consensus on smooth and barrier-free joint police operations involving contiguous districts of two or more states.

So far, a consensus has eluded the states on command structure for proposed joint, inter-state taskforce. While some of the states have suggested that the senior of the police officers of states involved in the joint operation head the command structure, there are also suggestions for a rotational command as well as for the more practical arrangement where the SPs of contiguous two states would co-ordinate to ensure smooth take-over once the Naxalites have crossed the border while on the run.

Among the other issues likely to be discussed at the special task force meeting is the need for state police to adhere to standard operating procedures while operating in Naxalite-infested areas.

It was only recently that the Centre had identified eight worst-affected districts of four aforesaid states for strong anti-Naxal action in a “holistic” manner. The eight districts — zeroed in after the Naxal situation was reviewed at the highest level at a meeting of the National Security Council Secretariat in August, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — are Aurangabad and Gaya in Bihar, Bijapur and Dantewada in Chattisgarh, Chatra and Palamau in Jharkhand and Malkangiri and Rayagada in Orissa.

The strong and holistic approach means that not only will joint intelligence-based operations be stepped up in these districts to turn the heat on Naxalites who often cross over to one state to escape action in another, but even development schemes will be undertaken on a war-footing to loosen the Naxalite hold and make way for lawful administration.

The eight districts have been prioritised on the basis of violence levels, contiguity, geographical location, topographical conditions and strategic security considerations. They are among 33 districts identified by the Centre for special attention in the field of development.

While 32 of the 33 districts recorded Naxal violence in over 20% of their total police stations in 2006, extremist incidents were reported from 11-20% of the police stations in Rayagada. The STF meeting on Thursday and Friday comes close on the heels of the meeting of inter-ministerial group on development in Naxal-hit areas held here on Tuesday. The meeting had reviewed status of development schemes in 33 districts.

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