In a fresh strategy to combat the Naxal menace, the government today asked Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal to create a unified command for anti-Maoist operations and to appoint a retired Major General of the Army as its member.

The Centre will “request the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal to create a unified command for anti-Naxal operations and to appoint a retired Major General of the Army as a member of the command,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said addressing leaders of seven Naxal-affected states here.

The meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is being attended by chief ministers of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. While Jharkhand is being represented by its governor, West Bengal has sent a senior minister for the meet.

Announcing decisions to fight Left-wing extremism, Mr. Chidambaram said government will also provide more helicopters to the states for logistic support, troop movement, supplies and evacuation.

The government will also fund the establishment and strengthening of 400 police stations in the affected districts at the rate of Rs. Two crore per police station on 80:20 basis over a period of two years.

Mr. Chidambaram in his inaugural speech said these decisions were taken in the light of experience gained in the last six months.

The Home Minister also said that Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal will be requested to appoint an officer of the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP) as IGP (anti-Naxal operations) for each state who will be co-ordinating the anti-Naxal operations with their counterparts in the CRPF which has already appointed officers for similar exclusive anti-Naxal duties.

Speaking about development issues in the states affected by Naxal violence, Mr. Chidambaram said an empowered group chaired by Member-Secretary, Planning Commission will modify existing norms and guidelines to implement various development schemes keeping in view local needs and conditions in the districts.

He said the state governments will be requested to implement provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled) Areas (PESA) Act strictly and vigorously to particularly ensure that rights over minor forest produce are assigned to the Gram Sabhas and the inter-position of Government controlled departments, corporations and cooperatives are removed.

The road connectivity in 34 districts most affected by Maoist menace will also be improved.

“A number of roads and bridges are proposed to be included, at a cost of Rs. 950 crore, by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

The Planning Commission is considering a special development plan for the affected districts, states with emphasis on road connectivity, primary education, primary health care and drinking water. Consultations have been held with the state governments and it is expected that the plan will be placed before the competent authority, shortly, for approval, he said.

Coming down heavily on the activities of the CPI (Maoist), Mr. Chidambaram said, “It (CPI Maoist) has no right to set itself up as judge, jury and executioner. In fact, it has no right to carry arms. It is a banned organisation and functions outside the pale of the law”