Tuesday, April 13, 2010

PM asks motor-mouth ministers to shut up

13 Apr 2010, 0409 hrs IST,ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: With conflicting versions on countering Maoists coming out from within the Union Council of Ministers, as well as officialdom, in the wake of the Dantewada massacre, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed all ministers against commenting on issues not directly related to their respective ministries.

In a letter written to all ministers and secretaries on behalf of the prime minister on Saturday, Cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekhar made it clear that MHA was the sole authority to deal with or comment on internal security matters as it was the nodal ministry.

Stating that the prime minister desires that ministers should not remark on the internal security of the country and should not voice different opinions on the matter, Mr Chandrashekhar is believed to have underlined that the home ministry was competent to react in such matters.

Following the killing of 76 security personnel in a Maoist attack in Dantewada, railway minister Mamata Banerjee and minister for food processing Subodh Kant Sahay had made statements that were at variance with the official line articulated by home minister P Chidambaram.

Even the armed forces made comments on training of the massacred CRPF personnel and the deployment of Air Force for counter-Naxal operations.

Soon after the Dantewada incident, railway minister Mamata Banerjee had alleged that Operation Green Hunt was being conducted just to help the Left Front regain its lost ground in the Naxalism-hit areas. “The CPM has set up at least 200 camps in that area. Why are they being allowed to stay?” she had asked. Mr Sahay too blamed the states for the growing Maoist violence.

“States should realise the fact that the growth of Naxalites is because of the existing socio-economic problems there. The states have failed to achieve the desired development and unless these problems are properly addressed, the Maoists won’t be uprooted. The non-co-operation of the states with the Centre is evident from the absence of Chief Ministers of Bihar and Jharkhand at a crucial meeting called by Chidambaram in Kolkata recently,” he recently observed.

At the level of officialdom, while Army chief V K Singh pointed to the lack of adequate training among the CRPF personnel, IAF chief P V Naik aired his reservations regarding the proposed use airpower against Naxalites.
Incidentally, the communication from the Cabinet secretary that only MHA must speak on internal security matters did not deter Air Chief Marshal Naik to once again speak against the use of IAF against Naxalites.

Speaking to reporters in Allahabad on Monday, Air Chief Marshal Naik said his personal view was that the armed forces were not required to fight the Maoists. “We have the capability to conduct strikes with utmost precision. However, it must be understood that if a 250 kg bomb is dropped at a spot, its impact will be in a radius of at least 800 metres and that may affect many people who may not themselves be insurgents,” he said.

However, Mr Naik added that “if at all a situation arises where the use of Air Force becomes inevitable, there has to be a clarity on the magnitude of the force we are supposed to use so that the collateral damage is minimum.”

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