Review meet attended by top officials of 13 naxal violence-affected States
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would be used for intelligence gathering: DuggalSalwa Judum to continue in Chhattisgarh
NEW DELHI: Taking note of reports that Naxal cadres were joining the Telengana movement in Andhra Pradesh, the Centre on Wednesday said that it was "conscious of such reports."
Briefing reporters after a seven-hour marathon review meeting of the Coordination Centre on Naxalism, which was attended by Chief Secretaries and Police Chiefs of 13 naxal violence-affected States, Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal said the issue of Telengana-Naxal nexus figured during the meeting. "The ramification of this was taken note of," Mr. Duggal said without elaborating.
He said that Andhra Pradesh witnessed declined levels of naxal violence during the first seven months of 2006 as compared to the same period last year. As against only 20 civilian deaths till July 31, 2006, the State reported 126 deaths during the same period in 2005, he said. There were 24 casualties in 119 incidents till July 31, 2006 as compared to 114 casualties in 376 incidents till July 31, 2005 in Andhra Pradesh.
On the whole, Mr. Duggal said naxal violence had shown a downward trend in States other than Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which remained two of the worst affected States. Taking into account the overall situation, naxal violence was affecting 460 police stations in 13 States out of a total of 12,700 police stations in the entire country.
"But we are still concerned. For the first time action plans of all the States were discussed in detail and wherever any gaps were found, we have suggested ways to plug them," Mr. Duggal said. Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar remain the five States which are most affected by naxalite violence.
Maintaining that the Centre was following a "pro-active" approach to tackle the naxalite problem, he said that the Home Ministry would provide air support to naxal-hit states for transporting security forces and allow use of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Chhattisgarh for intelligence gathering. He said the aerial support would not be meant for operational purposes. "It will be used for transporting security forces, evacuation and airdropping of food and medicines."
About the use of UAVs, Mr. Duggal said it was aimed at collecting inputs in Chhattisgarh, which has 1,000 sq km of thick forests making it difficult for security personnel to comb the area. Since the Ministry of Home Affairs had limited air strength, the affected States can hire helicopters and form a consortium and the cost would be reimbursed by the Home Ministry.
Replying to a query, he said that Salwa Judum (March for Peace) would continue in Chhattisgarh where 35 naxalites have been neutralised in 84 operations so far this year. There were 50,000 people sheltered in 18 camps in Chhattisgarh and of them 4,000 Special Police Officers have been armed. "Those living in camps should be well protected," he said in an oblique reference to the recent incident of naxals overrunning a camp and inflicting heavy casualties. He said that Chhattisgarh has been given 12 battalions by the Centre, which include ones from Mizoram and Nagaland, specially trained in jungle warfare.
He said that the naxal desk in the Union Home Ministry would be strengthened by deputing senior officers of the rank of Inspector-General and Deputy Inspector-General who could travel around the country and monitor implementation of development schemes.
Besides, there will be a mechanism for an inter-ministerial committee under the Special Secretary (Internal Security) for a detailed review of the schemes before the quarterly meetings of the Coordination Centre on Naxalism.