Friday, December 26, 2008

State raises financial aid to Naxal victims

26 Dec 2008, 0235 hrs IST, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: After years of dilly-dallying, the Maharashtra government has finally decided to raise the financial assistance and compensation to the next
of kin of policemen who lose their lives fighting the naxals. Now, this will be on par with those who lost their lives during the recent 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai.

The state’s newly-appointed home minister Jayant Patil made this announcement at Nagpur where the state legislature is currently in session. “Martyrs of naxal attacks in eastern Vidarbha districts would be entitled to monetary benefits equal to those being received by terror martyrs of November 26,” Mr Patil said.

The state government, which has already announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the kin of policemen killed during the last month’s terror attacks in Mumbai, has also decided to pay the full salary till the date of retirement to the families of deceased officers.

Maharashtra has a large area infested with naxals. According to official records, nearly half a dozen districts located along the naxal-infested regions of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and eastern Vidarbha have already been declared naxal affected.

Gadchiroli is seen as the Red bastion in Maharashtra, whereas Chandrapur, Gondiya, Yavatmal, Bhandara and Nanded districts are declared “naxal prone areas.” Apart from a favourable geographical setting, the economic backwardness and undulating terrain of these regions act as a fertile ground for Left extremism.

Besides, some districts bordering Madhya Pradesh are on the radar of naxals who want to create a contiguous Red Corridor from Bihar to Gujarat. Urban centres such as Mumbai, Solapur, Nagpur and Aurangabad are also seen as possible shelters. The state has already announced plans to set up an elite force of specially-trained men who would be provided with state-of-the-art technology to battle naxals.

The government’s decision comes in the wake of a severe criticism it faced over its handling of violence from the extreme leftist organisations. While the naxals were making inroads into the eastern Maharashtra, the government initially was terming them as merely the ‘spill-over effect’ from Andhra Pradesh. According to current official records, there are 15 naxal dalams (groups) that are active in Maharashtra. Of these, three — the Platoon dalam, Tipagarh dalam and Khobramendha dalam — are more violent and have modern ammunition, including LMGs and other sophisticated weapons. The CPI (Maoist) has around 250 full-time armed cadres and a strong contingent of 3,000 local supporters.

In another decision, the state on Wednesday announced a drive to recruit 50,000 more security personnel in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks. “Altogether, 50,000 security guards would be appointed through the state security board and proper training would be provided to them,” the government said.

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