Friday, July 24, 2009

More issues on battling naxals

The New Indian Express

First Published : 24 Jul 2009 11:46:00 PM ISTLast Updated : 24 Jul 2009 01:09:24 AM IST

We had noted in these columns the fallacy of addressing the mounting naxal violence problem primarily through the prism of law and order. There is urgent need for coordinated security action on Maoist insurgency, but if you think that’s all there is to it, you will continue to get nowhere; you have to also address the issues of their base in the populace. We’d like to reiterate this in view of the latest plan of the Centre, for a massive expansion of the Central Reserve Police Force to battle naxals. The CRPF already has 2.7 lakh personnel, far bigger than the armies of many countries; the plan is to add another 38 battalions and allow it to set up its own, nationwide, intelligence network; a ‘special military adviser’ is also being appointed. We do not find this reassuring. A number of management issues — of promotion, working conditions, accountability, and leadership besets paramilitary forces. Part of this flows from the same basic we began with, of the preoccupation with dousing fire after every outbreak without also addressing the issues which create such problems. The result is an overstretched force, moving from one trouble spot to another.

Making the CRPF something like a parallel army has various implications. How, for instance, is it supposed to mesh with the state police’s primary responsibility for law and order? How many intelligence forces are we going to have, each with its network of funds and secrecy? There’s already an unsatisfactory record on support structures for the CRPF, to keep the personnel motivated and accountable. Now we are proposing to add and unleash another 40,000 or so. The example often given is Punjab dousing its own insurgency, but the primary job there was done by the state police, and after the extremists had got isolated. This column has drawn frequent attention to the refusal to move on police reforms — promotion, working, accountability, etc. Nothing in the new plan shows this is any more of a priority, and the lack of these is one of the primary causes for the rise and growth of extremism, apart from the constant alienation of tribals and poor from their land and livelihood, through simple expropriation. Neither the Centre nor the state governments are thinking innovatively in these matters and that makes for a worrisome situation.

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