Monday, April 25, 2005

Naxals: Patil for compassion

DH News Service Bangalore:

Mr Patil’s prescription for dealing with Naxalites included more employment opportunities.

Nearly a month after Chief Minister N Dharam Singh spoke of his intention to outlaw Naxalites and their frontal oragnisations if they declined to give up arms, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil advised the State government to deal with Naxals with “compassion”.

“Whatever the political difficulties, force should be used only if nothing else works and only to protect innocents. Let us deal with Naxalism as a socio-economic problem, not a law and order problem,” said Mr Patil at in a high-level meeting with government functionaries, Ministers, Opposition leaders and intellectuals.

Amidst heated discussions, Mr Patil said the problem had not reached “dangerous proportions” in Karnataka and should not be blown out of proportion to spread fear among the people.

If any provision of the Forest Act was either an obstruction to development or causing grievance, the Centre was open to discuss and amend the Act.

Further, he advised the State government to start an employment guarantee scheme on the lines of Maharashtra to generate jobs in backward and tribal areas. “Sometimes, governments think it’s important to pump funds into education, power and irrigation. But we’ve concluded after studying the issue that good policing is as important for development. Unless you have security, there can be no development; fund strengthening of the police force,” the Union Minister declared.

The Centre has asked the Planning Commission to consider, on priority basis, the State’s requests for funds to develop Naxal-affected areas.

Different opinions came to the fore with scholars and MLAs suggesting that Naxals be first asked to give up arms before any talks. Others felt that implementing land reforms efficiently and providing basic amenities such as education would help people give up extremism. They felt that the government should stop all “fake encounters”.

Writer U R Ananthamurthy pointed out that people took to violent agitations as non-violent ones such as that of Medha Patkar’s had not drawn any response from the Centre.

Responding, Mr Patil asked the State to assess the reality of implementation of land reforms and redistribution of surplus land among the tillers.

Mr Patil said a separate special meeting would be convened to discuss the problem of dealing with adivasis in the Kudremukh area.

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