Jairam Ramesh finalises action plan for Saranda forest area in Jharkhand

The United Progressive Alliance government on Monday chalked out its first multi-winged operation to tackle the problem of Naxalism through development programmes, implemented under the protection of Central security forces.

Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh finalised the action plan for Saranda forest area in Jharkhand, considered to be the second stronghold of the Maoists in the country, with Deputy Chief Minister Sudesh Mahto at a meeting attended by officials of the Union Home Ministry and the DG Central Reserve Police Force.

Technical help from the Army has also been sought for the plan. The General Officer Commanding of the Central Command had met Mr. Ramesh a couple of days ago.

The objective, Mr. Ramesh pointed out, was to consolidate the logistic gains registered by the CRPF in the Saranda region and achieve demonstrable success not only to gain experience but also to showcase what could be rolled out in other areas in phases.

The role of the Army, which has taken up development work in 11 villages of Narainpur and Bijapur, is to just help the paramilitary forces as it does not want to make its presence felt on a large scale.

Even as a seven-member team of the MoRD is scheduled to visit Jharkhand to formalise the action plan, Mr. Ramesh's personal secretary Vineel Krishna, whom the Maoists had kidnapped when he was posted as District Magistrate of Malkangiri in Orissa, would be undertaking a tour of Jangalmahal region of West Bengal to prepare the ground work for a similar multi-winged intervention.

Mr. Ramesh maintained that the success in Saranda was critical before operation could be started in the Abujhmad region of Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli of Maharashtra, where the Maoists are ensconced most firmly.

The Central action plan entails an expenditure of about Rs.325 crore, besides the budgetary allocation under various heads covering the 56 villages of six panchayats of Saranda to benefit a population of about 36,000 tribals.

It includes free distribution of solar lantern, bicycles, and transistors to 7,000 families at an estimated cost of Rs.5.2 crore and 200 hand pumps at a cost of Rs.1.2 crore.

The Jharkhand government would undertake a survey to bring all the families under the BPL list, to include them under the Indira Aawas Yojana, give them pattas for up to four hectares of land under the Forest Rights Act, and provide old age pension to those eligible.

The Centre has decided to deploy three battalions of the CRPF and set up 20 camps in the core area. The CRPF will give protection during construction of roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).

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