Recalling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s word of caution that Left wing extremism posed the “single biggest internal security challenge,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday said the Centre’s two-pronged policy was clear — development and police action.
“However, the naxalites are anti-development and have targeted the very instruments of development — school buildings, roads, telephone towers. They know that development will wean the masses away, especially the poor tribals, from the grip of naxalites. Hence, these deliberate attacks on development activities,” he said.
Addressing the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security, he said the government’s response would focus on police action to wrest control of the territory dominated by naxalites, restoration of civil administration and undertaking development activities.
“We will encourage the State governments to talk to the naxalites — both individuals and local units — on condition that they give up their misconceived ‘armed liberation struggle.’ Let our message to the naxalites be this: we will talk; we will act; we will restore order; and we will undertake developmental activities,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
On the situation in the north-east, he said some State governments in the region allowed themselves to bend before insurgent groups, making the fight against insurgency much more difficult.
The States as well as the Centre shared an onerous responsibility to ensure people’s welfare.
“You [Chief Ministers] have the constitutional power and responsibility in respect of matters relating to ‘public order’ and ‘police.’ However, increasingly, jurists and the general public have emphasised the constitutional duty of the Central government to protect every State against internal disturbance,” he said.
Underlining the need for the Centre and State governments to work together in a spirit of partnership, he said the conference could demonstrate a resolve to overcome the challenges to internal security.
This was the second meeting of Chief Ministers on internal security this year; the first one was held on January 6. Mr. Chidambaram reminded the Chief Ministers that the entire nation was in a state of shock, grief and anger in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
“Role of police crucial”
Later, at a press conference, the Minister said he drew the Chief Ministers’ attention to the central role of the police in meeting the challenges to internal security and urged them to set up Police Establishment Board and provide a stable and certain tenure to police officers.
“How can an officer provide leadership if his or her tenure is precarious and uncertain? The Police Establishment Board will, in no way, diminish the authority of the Chief Minister or the Home Minister. On the contrary, it will greatly help them in conveying the message of fairness and non-discrimination.” The Chief Ministers could always intervene in exceptional situations.
Mr. Chidambaram urged the State governments to recruit and begin training police personnel at least to the extent of 1.5 lakh vacancies before March 31, 2010. He also argued in favour of raising the strength of police stations to at least 40 personnel.
He said the conference also discussed megacity policing and desert policing and measures to improve police in these areas. More than any other branch of government, it was the police that paid the highest price in terms of human lives that were lost. “In the seven-and-half months of 2009, as many as 303 men and women belonging to the police and paramilitary forces have laid down their lives.”
The conference was unanimous in the demand that modernisation of the police forces should continue for another five to 10 years and more funds should be allocated to it.
There were groups across the border that plotted against India but it did not mean that there was danger of an imminent terror attack. “We must not lower our guard and we shall not lower our guard,” he reiterated.
On the demand raised by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi that the Centre should clear the proposed Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill, he said the provisions in it were contrary to the last expression of mind of Parliament. “I cannot, therefore, recommend it for Presidential assent,” he added.