Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said he had always opposed bauxite mining as it would ruin the livelihood of Girijans. He said a majority of people, including his Cabinet colleague V. Kishore Chandra Deo, and district Minister P. Balaraju, were also of the same view on the controversial issue.

Mr. Ramesh, addressing a meeting at Hukumpeta near Paderu in the Agency, said six more districts could be declared Maoist-affected in addition to the existing two in Andhra Pradesh. Earlier, he planted the millionth tree as a part of Haryali Mahotsav (tree plantation) undertaken to boost the income of Girijans and improve the environment.

He said: “It is a matter of concern that the mineral-rich tribal areas are in a state of ferment and unrest. The gap between the government and Girijans has been widening of late, which is being exploited by Maoists. There is clearly a trust deficit which we have to address,” he remarked.

Mr. Ramesh said at present 60 districts in the country were identified as Maoist-affected, including Adilabad and Khammam in the State, and six more districts, including Visakhapatnam, could be added.

The Union Minister said the naxal issue should not be viewed as a law and order problem. Programmes should be taken up to wean away Girijans from Maoists and make them partners in progress. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme should be implemented in earnest and the money allocated for Girijan programmes should not be diverted. A fresh dialogue should be initiated with Maoists to enable them return to the mainstream.

Corruption should be weeded out and steps taken to improve the trust of Girijans in the administration.