Action plan proposed to improve rural connectivity for fighting extremism

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday said development and security were integral to each other, like strands in a single fabric.

He was speaking in the context of the proposed Sarju Area Development Action Plan (SADAP), which is similar to the Saranda Action Plan (SAP) that was started six months ago in the Chibasa district of Jharkhand to combat the extremist menace in the region. The Minister is on a two-day visit to Jharkhand.

“In two months' time, two roads were constructed under the SAP, and by the end of June, 24 CRPF camps will be established in those areas...Because of the successful response in Saranda, the State government has requested the Centre for approval for a similar project in the Sarju area which is now a hideout for CPI [Maoist],” he said, analysing proposals put forward by the State government to reach out to poor tribal people in Latehar district.

Sarju, 132 km from the State capital, has remained a “liberated zone” for the Maoists. The SADAP encompasses four blocks, 12 panchayats and 12,000 families. To combat extremism in the area, rural connectivity should improve and this has been proposed under the plan, the Minister said.

Mr. Ramesh said the plan would take two years to complete and cost Rs. 4,500 crore. It will involve better rural electrification, promotion of educational facilities, strengthening of anganwadi centres, and the building of roads, houses, rural markets and community centres. An area of 15,000 sq. km. will be covered, compared to 900 sq. km. under the Saranda Action Plan.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Ramesh said: “The Maoist problem is the most intense in those areas where there is a tri-junction, places where more than two State territories overlap. This provides extremists a perfect environment. If panchayats are empowered in Jharkhand, this problem can be confronted.

“The Saranda Action Plan is not for the benefit of private mining companies, but for the people who belong to those areas. Similarly, the Sarju Development Plan is not about the construction of any dam. We're not planning to displace people but to promote livelihood opportunities and strengthen the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.”

He denied allegations made by some organisations against the SAP, and said the rural development department was working for the benefit of the people. Jharkhand has 35 lakh hectares of agricultural land, but only 10 per cent of it is irrigated.

The challenge is that in the next 10 years some 30 lakh ha. would have to be irrigated. This will cost Rs. 45,000 crore.

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