The Union government has decided to intensify its operations against the CPI (Maoist) by launching the third and fourth phase of its multi-winged, coordinated stratagem to squeeze the expanse of what the Naxalites now refer to as the ‘ring of fire' (part of the red corridor). However, several ministries are not extending any cooperation.
Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh raised the issue in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complaining about the failure of the various ministries contributing to the effort, particularly in the light of the fact that the Centre has initiated the process to make inroads into Maoist bastions in Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
After failing to elicit any response from the Telecommunications Ministry, Mr. Ramesh sought Dr. Singh's intervention to provide connectivity in remote areas for the benefit of the masses and to extend logistic support to the security forces camping in the jungles.
Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu that the locations for setting up the towers had been identified and space had been provided on the CRPF camp premises and all that the BSNL had to do was to set these up. But the organisation was not doing it as prioritised, he charged.
In his letter, Mr. Ramesh said: “Left-wing extremism districts must get sustained focus from the ministries concerned like they are receiving in the Ministry of Rural Development [MoRD] and Drinking Water and Sanitation.”
Pointing to the “huge unmet demand” for electricity, schools with teachers, health centres with trained personnel and for better telecom connectivity, Mr. Ramesh expressed the hope that the ministries would contribute their bit for better integration of developmental activities with security operations.
The urgency in undertaking the next two counter-offensive measures is driven by developments arising from the kidnapping of two Italians, a legislator and a government official that not only caused embarrassment to the States concerned — Orissa and Chhattisgarh — but also to the Centre.
The Home Ministry approached the Rural Development Ministry to formulate the blue print for the next assault against the Maoists, now that the Saranda Action Plan and the Saryu Action Plan are being executed at an estimated cost of Rs. 250 crore and Rs. 450 crore respectively.
Central Reserve Police Force Director-General K. Vijay Kumar called on Mr. Ramesh immediately after the release of Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon to suggest his next course of action and the plan the MoRD should formulate for a coordinated battle against the Naxalites.
While the Saranda and Saryu action plans are limited to areas within a particular district and a particular State (Jharkhand), the next two onslaughts are strategically planned to snap the movement of the Naxalites from one State to another, keeping in mind that the abduction of the IAS officer in Chhattisgarh was carried out soon after the two incidents of kidnapping in Orissa.
The Home Ministry has called for a sustained developmental offensive, stressing that the remote, hilly and forest areas with inter-State borders formed the Maoists' last traditional bastion.
The Ministry has accepted that these areas are “less operationalised from the police point of view” and have obvious development deficit. Anticipating greater resistance from Naxal sympathisers, it called for greater penetration of development schemes with a varied bouquet of projects.
After the CRPF liberated Saranda — the eastern region headquarters of CPI(Maoist) — after a gap of 11 years , Mr. Ramesh launched the action plan which is now about five months old. About a week ago, a similar plan was launched in Saryu which is regarded as the Naxal training ground in the eastern region.
He has been coordinating with Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda to help set up 24 CRPF camps in the State.
He now will be coordinating with Chief Ministers of Orissa and Chhattisgarh, Naveen Patnaik and Raman Singh, to speed up the development process along with extending necessary logistics support to the paramilitary forces which have been spearheading the anti-Naxal campaign.
The MoRD is preparing the Latehar-Garhwa (Jharkhand)-Balrampur (Chhattisgarh) Trijunction Development Plan keeping in view the demands of the CRPF for construction of roads and bridges and culverts under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in the area for launching its assault. The MoRD is aware of the problem of non-availability of contractors and lack of support from the people.
The fourth plan will take care of the offensive to be launched in Malkangiri district in Orissa and the adjoining Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. For a reminder it was from Malkangiri that the then DM, R. Vineel Krishna, now private secretary to Mr. Ramesh, was abducted and Mr. Menon was kidnapped as DM of Sukma.
According to Mr. Ramesh the blue print would be prepared at the earliest and he expected these two programmes to entail a much higher expenditure than the earlier ones given their wider geographical dimension and bigger population implication.
The two offensives will be launched soon. The CRPF raided the Saranda forest during the monsoon itself taking the Naxalites by surprise.
Jairam seeks Manmohan's intervention to provide connectivity in remote areas
Better integration of developmental activities with security operations need of the hour