The security environment in West Bengal has become more difficult than the past year and meeting the challenge would require, among other things, filling vacancies in the police force, improving the police-population ratio, acquiring more sophisticated weapons, imparting better training and providing more incentives for working in difficult areas, Governor M.K. Narayanan told the Assembly here on Tuesday.
“The challenge would be to find resources for all this”, the former National Security Adviser said while delivering his first speech in the Assembly as Governor that marked the start of the budget session.
He said 28 thanas in three districts of Paschim Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura were affected by left-wing extremism.
“The spread of left-wing extremists in these areas has been facilitated by their location next to the affected areas of Jharkhand and Orissa as well as the dense forest cover available for violent action.”
“The extremists have been active especially over the last three years, attacking police stations, snatching arms, exploding mines, extorting money and looting banks. In the current year they have killed a large number of civilians and policemen,” Mr. Narayanan said.
Since the joint security operations to flush out the Maoists in the region in June 2009, over 450 persons including members of armed squads were arrested and arms recovered, he added.
Deploring the “heinous attack” on the EFR (Eastern Frontier Rifles) camp at Silda on February 15, in which 24 riflemen were killed, Mr. Narayanan said that though an “unfortunate incident,” it “has also increased our resolve to fight the menace of left-wing extremism.”
As for the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's agitation in the Darjeeling hills of north Bengal for a separate State of Gorkhaland, the Governor said: “The State government has not accepted the demand for a separate State but has agreed to enhance the powers of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council or any other body that could replace the Council.”
He also observed that the State government “favours a political solution of the problem” given the “sensitive nature of the issues involved.”
On the industrial front, the State government is continuing “to pursue the pro-active policy of industrialisation to combat the negative impact of global recession,” Mr. Narayanan said.
Investment in the engineering, automobiles, chemicals, iron and steel sectors, among others, is expected to be over Rs. 7,000 crore during the year. This will pave the way for creating substantial employment opportunities and to strengthen the industrial base of the State, he added.