It is time to abandon the ‘impractical' district-based approach

Blocks rather than districts should be considered the standard unit for an integrated approach to tackle the Maoist menace, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said here on Saturday.

Mr. Ramesh said he had suggested to the Planning Commission that it bring about changes in norms for the purpose. It was time to move away from the district-based approach to tackle the problem as it was impractical to equate two districts that had a different number of blocks each, he said speaking to journalists after a meeting with the Collectors of six Maoist-affected districts of Orissa.

The Minister pointed out that in a majority of the affected districts, blocks were very large in size, a major stumbling block to providing better governance. Smaller blocks were a means to provide better governance.

Mr. Ramesh said the Orissa government had already made a proposal in this regard.

During the meeting with the Collectors of Ganjam, Gajapati, Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Kandhamal and Nayagarh, he reviewed the problems in implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Maoist-affected areas. Out of the 60 districts identified as being affected by Left-Wing Extremism (LWE), 15 are in Orissa.

“Along with deployment of security forces, rural development can be a primary instrument to combat extremism,” he said.

Mr. Ramesh suggested that the State government form a paralegal system in the affected districts to enable tribal persons to reclaim their land. For, leftist extremists, adopting ‘instant justice', had long been exploiting long-standing, land-related issues in the tribal areas.The Minister said LWE in Orissa was not as alarming as it was in adjoining Chhattisgarh.

Mr. Ramesh, who is on a two-day visit to Orissa, will visit Kandhamal on Sunday to review rehabilitation of the victims of the 2008 communal riots.