Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Not a Moment Too Soon on Naxal Plan


Home Minister P. Chidambaram told Parliament today that the government is on the brink on unveiling a new comprehensive action plan designed to combat the increasingly brutal insurgency by Maoist rebels in central India.

In the latest bloody battle, at least 70 police were reported missing Chhattisgarh Wednesday after a major gun battle with 200 Naxalites, as the Maoists also are known, in thick forest and heavy rain.

The government in New Delhi has been dithering over what to do for months amid an apparent split in Congress’s high ranks over how to handle what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has called the greatest internal security threat facing the country. Mr. Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha in response to an official question that the Planning Commission will be issuing a final draft of the new “Integrated Action Plan” in the next few days. The plan is expected to focus on development.

That something appears to be about to happen is a start, though no-one should hold their breath that a document emanating from the Planning Commission will sail through the Cabinet and become national policy anytime soon even as the deaths mount up. Today’s incident happened in the same district, Dantewada, where Maoists exacted their greatest death toll of the insurgency to date, killing 76 paramilitary police in April.

Mr. Chidambaram also detailed some other aspects of the insurgency which give a sense of the grip the Naxalites now hold on some areas of the country. He said they appear to be armed with “country pistols,” or home-made handguns, as well as arms from looting an arms cachet in Orissa in the past. Weapons also come across the borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

He added that the Maoists don’t appear to be receiving funding from abroad. But nor does it appear they need it. They raise funds, Mr. Chidambaram said, through extortion, looting bank branches and levies on trucks that pass through their areas.

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