Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FE Editorial : Bloodier red

The Financial Express
Posted: 2009-07-14 21:59:54+05:30 IST
Updated: Jul 14, 2009 at 2159 hrs IST

Discuss : Compared to 1,591 Naxal-related incidents last year, 2009 has seen 1,128 up to just June 30. Add on the developments this week and it’s clear that the home ministry needs to tackle this situation on a priority basis. The three deadly Sunday strikes in Rajnandgaon actually took place outside the traditional Naxal strongholds in Chhattisgarh. The Indian Express has reported that these strikes are part of a larger, longer-term and more dangerous project to free up a jungle corridor that connects Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh with Dantewada in the heart of Chhattisgarh’s rebel stronghold. The DIG, Special Intelligence Bureau, Andhra Pradesh, has been quoted as saying that if this corridor is successfully completed, large swathes of the region will pass under the insurgents’ control. Obviously, this security crisis has big economic implications. When the Naxals blew up three 132 KVA high-tension towers in Bastar in 2007, six districts were thrown into darkness for a week. The total estimated loss was a whopping Rs 2,000 crore. And when Navratna PSU Nalco’s bauxite mines were struck in April this year, that brought to a halt a critical facility with an annual capacity of 48 lakh tonnes. And each time, it is not just the mines that are badly affected, but also hospitals, railways and other public services.

It was in 2006 that the PM took the occasion of his Independence Day speech to name Naxalism as one of the biggest threats to India’s internal security. This month, it’s the turn of the home minister to say the problem has become “grave and intense”. The obvious question: what’s been done since 2006 to bring the Naxals to heel? Can the government strategy be called anything but an abysmal failure if a deadly new Naxal corridor is under construction right now? Next month, the minister is scheduled to meet chief ministers of the Naxal-affected states to fine-tune a coordinated strategy. This, he has said, will involve: 1) clearing and holding the areas occupied by Naxals, and 2) carrying out development works. Nothing could be more rational. But just consider West Bengal and the Centre squabbling over banning the CPI(ML) while counterinsurgency operations suffered. Consider also that where the ban has been in force for years, as in Orissa, its impact has been hampered by lackadaisical follow-through. Guerilla networks continue to flourish underground. To chase and eviscerate them in that netherworld will indeed require the combined might of the Centre and states. Unfortunately, we are still at the finger-pointing stage. The Centre is accused of not supplying enough paramilitary support. In turn, it claims that the states haven’t taken enough development measures to build confidence in the affected areas.

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