Thursday, December 20, 2007

PM CHAIRS THE CHIEF MINISTERS’ CONFERENCE ON INTERNAL SECURITY

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh chaired the Chief Minister’s Conference on Internal security here today.

Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address at the occasion:

“We met yesterday in the National Development Council to discuss the development challenges facing our nation and the new pathways we need to chart if we are to attain our development goals. Today, we are here to discuss the internal security challenges facing our nation and the steps we need collectively to take if we are to provide the necessary environment for growth processes to play out fully. I would like to thank all of you present here and Shri Shivraj Patilji for this opportunity to discuss the internal security situation.

In many ways, development and internal security are two sides of the same coin. Each is critically dependent on the other. Often, the lack of development and the lack of any prospects for improving one’s lot provide a fertile ground for extremist ideologies to flourish. A large proportion of the recruits to extremist groups come from deprived or marginalized backgrounds or from regions which somehow seem disaffected by the vibrant growth in many other parts of the country. I had mentioned yesterday that I am concerned about the unevenness of our development process and the various development divides that are opening up in the country – the inter regional divide, the rural-urban divide and the inter-sectoral divide. These divides and disparities lead to disaffection, large-scale migration, and also to discord. I notice that in many cases, internal security problems arise out of the uneven development and we also need to address this issue if we are to make any long-term headway in combating extremist ideologies and extremist elements.

At the same time, development cannot take place in the absence of a secure and stable environment. In the last sixty years, we can as a Nation, justly be proud of our record in upholding the rule of law and maintaining public order. But, there are regions where the absence of a peaceful, secure environment has become a major hurdle in improving their prevailing economic conditions. State agencies find it difficult to run schools, healthcare services and PDS systems. Construction of essential infrastructure like roads, railways, electricity lines, telecom lines, irrigation systems and drinking water facilities is slowed down or stopped because of inadequate security. Such an atmosphere then is certainly not conducive to investment or rapid economic development.

Such regions get trapped in a vicious cycle of a poor law and order situation coupled with slow economic development. One situation feeds on the other and it becomes increasingly difficult to pull these areas out of the rut they are caught in. I have dwelt on this at length to emphasise that there are no easy solutions to the internal security challenges we face. They cannot be seen only through the prism of law and order nor can they be solved through a pure policing approach. The internal security challenges we face need your personal attention and leadership. It is only then can they be addressed in a coordinated and comprehensive manner. I urge all the Chief Ministers present here to reflect deeply on the internal security problems that the Home Minister has highlighted and work out credible responses to those challenges.

As we survey the national security scenario, there are a few aspects which are a cause of concern. I wish to highlight a few of them. Left Wing Extremism continues to affect many districts of our country. Just a few days ago, we had a major incident of a jailbreak in Chhattisgarh. This was not an isolated incident. Not a day passes without an incident of Left Wing Extremism taking place somewhere or the other. Over the last year, the activities of naxal groups have revealed new aspects. They seem to have developed the capability in some areas to launch frontal attacks on police forces and establishments. They are certainly targeting all aspects of economic activity. They are targeting vital economic infrastructure so as to cripple transport and logistic capabilities and also slow down any development activity. This helps them sustain their ideology of deprivation and neglect. They have even managed to eliminate some important political leaders and their associates in some States.

There also seems to be a consolidation of various groups with better coordination and better strike capabilities. Although the notions of a red corridor from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh are exaggerated, we have to admit that they have achieved some degree of success in enlarging their areas of militancy. In some States, they have also got involved in local struggles relating to land and other rights. I have said in the past that Left Wing Extremism is probably single biggest security challenge to the Indian state. It continues to be so and we cannot rest in peace until we have eliminated this virus.

We need a coordinated response to this challenge. The answers to the problem are well known. We need to cripple the hold of naxalite forces with all the means at our command. This requires improved intelligence gathering capabilities, improved policing capabilities, better coordination between the Centre and the States and better coordination between States and most important, better leadership and firmer resolve. Improving policing capabilities requires better police infrastructure, better training facilities, better equipment and resources and dedicated forces. I notice that there are large vacancies of police personnel across most States. I hear that there were only three staff in the Dantewada jail where the jailbreak took place. Inadequate, ill equipped, ill trained, poorly-motivated personnel cannot take on the naxal extremists who are increasingly better equipped and organized. We need to fill vacancies as a matter of priority. I would also urge States to establish specialized, dedicated forces to fight Left Wing Extremism. These forces should be led by capable, highly motivated officers who can imbue the necessary fighting spirit in their personnel. The Home Ministry will provide all possible assistance to these forces. States also need to consider joint operations and joint mechanisms for effective police operations in appropriate cases.

While tackling naxal groups militarily, we also need to choke their support infrastructure. Forest operations, tendu patta operations and contractors in interior areas are particularly vulnerable to extortion. I wish to know from you about steps that can be taken to reduce the funds flow to naxal groups. We also need to ensure that essential economic infrastructure is protected and the tempo of development activities is increased. I know this is easier said than done, considering the risks that are involved. But, we need to devise both protection mechanisms as well as incentives for ensuring that naxal groups do not succeed in their attempts to derail processes of development. We also need to wean away the youth from naxal ideologies. I am told that a coordinated effort has begun in eight districts in four States. This is only a beginning. We need such a response across the entire affected area.

While Left Wing Extremism may be restricted in its scope to some regions, the larger problem of terrorism affects merely all States equally. Terror attacks may have happened so far only in some locations. But the reach of terrorists is such that no one can say that they are fully immune from such attacks. In the current year, we have had high profile terror attacks in Hyderabad, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Terrorists are able to use a wide range of materials and are able to organize coordinated strikes. They are able to network across States and even international boundaries. Intelligence agencies warn of further intensification of violent activities by terrorist groups. While the actual perpetrators of terrorist violence may belong to a few known organizations, we need to guard against their attempts to recruit local sympathisers and local support.

I would like to stress that we need to be firm in our resolve to combat terrorism in all its aspects. The key to success in fighting terror is intelligence – and intelligence needs to be precise and capable of being acted upon. This requires better coordination between central and State agencies.

The other aspect I notice is the increased focus of terrorists on soft targets. These include transport systems – as we saw in Mumbai, public places – as we saw in Hyderabad and Punjab and religious shrines – as we saw in Ajmer. We need to improve our surveillance and preventive systems to reduce the probability of terror attacks. This is a cost – but a cost we must learn to bear for the sake of the safety and security of our citizens. We also need to make citizens our partners in this battle as it will be impossible for police and intelligence agencies to cover all locations and situations. Often, it is the early warning given by citizens which has prevented major catastrophes.

In this context, the issue of investigation and prosecution of cases of terror having inter-state or international linkages also needs to be considered in a pragmatic manner. The proposition now appears to be that we are not talking about specifying any crimes as ‘federal crimes’ to be investigated by a federal agency. The suggestion is to set up a Consultative Mechanism to decide on a case-to-case basis whether investigations need to be done by a designated agency. Or have collaborative arrangements in the framework of a concurrent jurisdiction. I would urge you to consider these options seriously.

The problems of the North Eastern States and Jammu & Kashmir are unique. They suffer from poor infrastructure and communication facilities. It has been our sincere attempt to improve these facilities so that these states too can benefit from our booming economy. But, these States have vulnerabilities on the internal security front which we need to address. Each State has its specific nuances and characteristics and we cannot generalize the problems. There are many regional and tribal demands which need to be addressed systematically. If not done so, they can lead to disaffection and law and order problems. While there has been an improvement in the overall situation in all these States, Manipur and Nagaland appear particularly vulnerable. Extortion seems to be a frequent occurrence. We need to put an end to this. We need to enforce the rule of law and create a respect for the State apparatus. We need much better leadership at all levels so that militancy is curbed and people feel secure. National considerations and requirements should take over-riding priority. I wish to hear from the Chief Ministers of the North Eastern States, their perception of the situation and how they propose to handle the delicate situation that prevails some of their States.

Before I conclude, I wish to draw your attention to a simple but more fundamental issue. This is the need to improve our entire police apparatus. I believe that citizens should see policemen as their friends. It should be our common endeavour to improve routine policing, policing which affects the day-to-day life of our citizens, policing which gives them a sense of security and comfort, policing which makes women and children feel safe and secure, policing which keeps the old out of harm’s way, policing which tackles petty menaces. This is the normal expectation that our people have from the police. You need to guide your police forces to achieve these simple but basic objectives.

This requires undoubtedly greater investment in our police forces. This is not wasteful investment. This is an investment in our future. We need top class police forces across the length and breadth of our country, forces which can meet our people’s expectations. Apart from finances, the most critical aspect is training and capability improvement. You must invest in the human resources you have. We will support you from the Centre. I will request the Hon’ble Home Minister to consider setting up a specialized training facility for training police trainers from all over the country. This facility can become a centre of excellence which will be the foundation for improving training capabilities of all State police forces. It could have the best training talent and expertise and can be a most effective instrument for professionalising our police machinery all over the country. It can become the node for modernization efforts in training and for inducting modern techniques into our police forces.

This is an important conference. You have greater knowledge of ground realities and the efforts needed for improving internal security. I look forward to hearing from you your views on this very important subject as a guide to collective decision making processes which will add to the sense of security that all our citizens desire as their fundamental right.”

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RCJ/HS/NSK/LV

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