Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Naxal radar: Projects meant to fuel economic development

Vishwa Mohan, TNN 28 July 2009, 02:53am IST


NEW DELHI: Maoists' sympathisers may be citing under-development of tribal areas as one of the reasons forcing the poor to take up arms against the
administration, but they have perhaps ignored the fact that it is the Red ultras who have become a major hindrance in the development of many areas.

Acting as an anti-development force, the Maoists in the last over three years not only attacked 316 economic targets — which gave employment to thousands of local tribals in Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra — but also put various economic installations and infrastructure projects on their hit-list.

Home ministry statistics show that the number of attacks has consistently been increasing since 2006 when Naxalites attacked 71 targets, including even high-risk uranium mines, in eight states. These were followed by 80 such attacks in 2007, 109 in 2008 and 56 in the first six months (till June) of this year.

Though communication lines — railways and telephone towers — were their prime targets during the period, the Red ultras also attacked a number of infrastructure projects which were being constructed in some of the most backward districts of the country.

“In fact, the Maoists themselves do not want development in those areas which are the breeding ground of their cadres. By strategically destroying telephone towers, electricity transmission lines and railway property, they simply want to keep the local administration and security agencies at bay,” said a senior home ministry official.

With Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other development projects being on the Maoists’ hit-list across the country, the Centre has repeatedly warned the states to gear up their machinery to check the ultras’ onslaught against economic targets.

“Maoists are alarmed by any kind of economic activity in areas where they operate. They feel that if the local administration fills the gap, their relevance ends,” said the official. Issues concerning rising incidents of attacks on economic targets by Maoists will be taken up in a big way during the conference of chief ministers of naxal-affected states next month.

Currently, while over 37,000 CRPF personnel are deployed in the naxal-affected states to fight the Red ultras, a large number of CISF personnel are engaged in securing various public sector undertakings in the areas. The home ministry has also received a number of applications from the private sector for providing CISF cover to their units/projects in Maoist-infested regions.

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