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Updated: May 25, 2012 12:16 IST

It's a catch-22 situation for high-ranking officials in Maoist areas

Aman Sethi
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Paramilitary soldiers patrol during the Operation Green Hunt near the Betla forests, 210 km northeast of Ranchi. File photo
AP Paramilitary soldiers patrol during the Operation Green Hunt near the Betla forests, 210 km northeast of Ranchi. File photo

Maoist attacks reveal difficulties in undertaking development works

On April 20 this year, Rajat Kumar, Collector of Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, was travelling through his district when an improvised explosive device, planted by cadres of Communist Party of India (Maoist), exploded under his convoy. While Mr. Kumar's vehicle avoided the explosion, three people including a zilla panchayat member and the BJP's district vice president were killed. A day later, Maoist guerrillas abducted Alex Menon, Collector of the adjoining district of Sukma and killed his security guards.

Seen in the context of last year's abduction of Malkangiri's Collector, R. Vineel Krishna, the recent attacks by Maoists on civil administration officials have revealed the difficulties in the State and Central government strategy of prioritising development works in Maoist-affected districts.

“It is a Catch-22 situation,” said Mr. Kumar, Collector of Bijapur, explaining that “the only way to ensure that projects are completed is to have high-ranking officers conduct regular inspections on the ground; yet precisely such visits make it easier for them to be captured as their travel plans are broadcast to ensure that villagers have the opportunity to communicate directly with the district Collector. Presumably, the Maoists take advantage of such information to plan their attacks.”

“We can make our trips more random…but if we travel 100 km to an interior village without prior notice, there may be no villagers around to present their complaints,” Mr. Kumar said.

More security a problem

Prior to Mr. Menon's abduction on Saturday, security officials said that civil administration officials were wary of travelling with too much security as they felt that the Maoists would target the troops themselves.

“It is a real dilemma,” said Mr. Vineel Krishna, when asked why Collectors didn't travel with more security, “Mr. Rajat Kumar was travelling with full security when his convoy was targeted. The police had laid out a road opening party.”

Mr. Krishna, who was abducted by the Maoists last year, said the recent attacks appeared to be part of a deliberate strategy to target the civil administration. “After the 1987 case [in which 11 officers were kidnapped in Andhra Pradesh] they had stopped targeting the civil administration. I was able to travel freely in Malkangiri, thinking they would not attack me. Now it will be hard to motivate officers to enter these areas,” Mr. Krishna said.

“The Maoists are clearly threatened by bright young officers like Vineel, Alex and Rajat,” said Union Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh. In 2010-2011, the Union government allocated Rs. 30 crore of discretionary funding for 78 insurgency-affected districts under a 2-year Integrated Action Plan. The current attacks, Mr. Ramesh said, pointed to the need to begin a political process to accompany a surge in development and security-related projects.

Counter-insurgency experts however, question if development really is a way to tackle the Maoist insurgency. Stressing that he is a supporter of expanding infrastructure for education, health and nutrition in principle, Ajai Sahni of the Institute of Conflict Management is unconvinced by the premise of the current anti-Maoist strategy. “We do not have the manpower for a clear, hold and build strategy,” said Mr. Sahni, referring to a policy of deploying troops to provide security cover for development workers.

Noting that “it takes far less time to blow up a school than build one,” Mr. Sahni said that the government was also unable to safeguard projects that had already been completed. One option, he said, could be to empower security forces to undertake certain kinds of development works while the special forces were used in high-impact intelligence lead operations aimed at the Maoist leadership.

The Maoists could not be reached for comment in this specific instance. In a pamphlet last year, the Maoists had maintained that officials like Mr. Krishna were abducted not because of their individual attributes, but because they were symbols of a State structure that the guerrillas were committed to overthrow.

“We can make our trips more random…but if we travel 100 km to an
interior village without prior notice, there may be no villagers around
to present their complaints,” - I do agree with this line of thought,
but an arrangement could be made wherein the villagers attend a video
conference or the collector could video conference with the aid of some
latest satellite internet connection..surely this is not a huge
constraint in this day and age...

from:  muller ankala
Posted on: Apr 24, 2012 at 09:47 IST

i think they are not naxalites anymore their activities are quite synonmous to that of terrorists. IAS officer is there for the upliftment of the society in chatttisgarh and other areas, there agenda is same as that of so called naxalites that is giving people what they really deserve, so if the naxalities truely want to bring the backward areas on the path of progress they should work with the bureaucracy instead of working against them. Look at Nepal, when the communists agreed to come into mainstream they were accepted with open hands. It the time to deliver a strong message to these so called naxalites and i am sure we will.

from:  Jasmeet Singh Ghuman
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 15:55 IST

The naxal problem is there because government wants it. It is as simple as that. One sweep in jungles of naxal effected area by army should be enough. Consider Rahul Gandhi being abducted. Will central government remain inactive? I pray for the poor souls in these areas.

from:  Shiv Shankar Dayal
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 14:48 IST

Tackling the naxalite problem in India has been an agony that is prevailing from a long time.Evidently it has been violence and has hampered development in the states. It is not that this problem cannot be tackled. It should be the imperative of think tanks to devise a method. I think the need of the time is to neutralize the naxalite supporters by active dialogue process. There has to be understanding and sympathy from both the sides of state administration and naxalite. Those unwilling to come to a point of consensus should be prosecuted and penalized by the harshest law of the land. Such an action would not only need security forces, but would also need political leaders who have eminent presence in that area. Any problem must be dealt at a social level first. After all, naxalites are disillusoned people amongst us just like any other citizens.

from:  Salman
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 14:44 IST

It is high time for the state and Centre sit together and formulate strategy to fight this menace.The development/security should go hand in hand. First they should win the hearts of the locals and their support. The govt should not launch any project like Bauxite mining/Posco or any other project which displaces the the locals, and gives a chance to naxals to take their support against the govt. In such case, collection of Intelligence is also difficult.Another thing is the either the state or Centre which launches a project in these areas, later fails to keep up their promise, like rehabilitation, employment in the said industry, education to the children and health of migrated families and allotment of alternate land for agriculture etc.Thus these lacunae helps the naxals to exploit the locals.The administration shows every thing on papers, but it misses on the ground.The higher ups fail to monitor or again go back to locals/tribals whether they are rehabilitated or settled well etc

from:  S.Nagaraja Rao
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 11:37 IST

Abduction of Sukma district collector must be strongly condemned and should be handled strictly. Following that Central Government should take appropriate action in saving the collector and must be done in full swing as he is a asthma patient. Thirdly the Central Government must see in depth solutions in order to curb Maoists & their activities by attracting them towards development and involving them for the same. When they are satisfied with their basic needs and rights "I BELIEVE THEY WILL DROP WEAPONS && WORK UNITEDLY IN DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR LIVING STANDARDS". This is appealed to the Central Government as expenditure of money, lose of lives and property damage should not be there anymore in future.

from:  CSA Shankar
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 11:29 IST

I don't know what Chhattisgarh government is doing & what they r going to do ???? It's really pathetic to see day in day out poor tribals and honest officers r getting abducted and getting killed . Can't Chhattisgarh government see this carnage going on for such a long time OR there is some link between government and there dear Maoists , so as to enjoy funds coming from the central on the name of annihilation of Maoists ???? It's a high time that CG government should take some dauntless steps so as to completely root off these desperado's. CG GOVNMT corpocrats should now completely stop bamboozling public and their feelings.

from:  Siddhartha
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 11:29 IST

Govt needs to work on grass root to handle Maoists issues. This abduction trend has begun which has initiated by Orissa govt. Now naxals from other states would follow the same path to release their members. Govt should work to gain trust from villagers whom they force to join naxals. No welfare reaches to these villagers, they lead most pathetic life on the earth. Their ladies gets raped and no polices department ,no govt give them justice because its done by all who is sitting in power. No food scheme reaches to them announced by the govt. Its the very same govt system who force ppl to join naxals. Its wrong what naxals doing but govt reaping the same what they sow.

from:  Ramesh Rao
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 11:07 IST

By abducting young IAS officers, the maoists are trying to demotivate a whole lot of junior officers too from carrying out developmental works in these areas. If the state police is ill-equipped to provide security, then services of CRPF and other para-military forces should be utilised. A minister at state capital needs much lesser security as compared to officials in naxal areas. The state must get its priorities right. Moreoever technology can be leveraged where-ever necessary to avert such incidents. Video conferencing, community radio and message texting can be utilised. They may not be substitute physical inspections but can reduce the necessity of going to maoist infected areas routinely.

from:  Sanjay
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 10:19 IST

Its sad to note that the govt is helpless against the Maoists. Government must take this situation more seriously and take severe action against them.

from:  Surya
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 09:19 IST

It seems that maoists have been deviated from their objective.These days they are become just a nosy parkers, who are just putting spoke in development work.People should stop supporting them and government must use iron hand against them.

from:  gyan chandra
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 08:42 IST

It is difficult for administrative officers to work in these areas but than they are the chosen ones. Ones with all the brains and govt machinary behind them. They must outsmart naxals. In any case it must be ensured that no naxalite is released in exchange Lives of so many innocents and policemen murdered by naxalites should not go waste. It is shameful that Odisha has released a few.

from:  shekhar
Posted on: Apr 23, 2012 at 00:13 IST
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