Special Correspondent

Lack of development in remote areas a reason for rising naxal influence: Pranab

Development will not be possible in any area if there is violence

On Jagan's yatra: “Appropriate disciplinary action at appropriate time”

GULBARGA (KARNATAKA): Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said the growing Maoist menace and stepped-up violence in West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and other places were a major threat to internal security.

Referring to Friday's rail disaster at Sardiha in West Bengal, in which Maoist involvement is suspected, Mr. Mukherjee said a concerted effort by the State and Central governments was needed to effectively tackle the naxal threat.

The Centre, on its part, was sending additional forces to supplement the State forces. “We are also providing funds for modernising the forces in the State and equipping them with modern weapons and communication gadgets to effectively counter the Maoist threat.”

However, besides treating the Maoist threat as a law and order problem, the government would have to take up developmental activities to wean people away from the naxals. Development would not be possible in any area if there was violence, and the government would have to take measures to end violence to take up developmental activities, Mr. Mukherjee said.

Lack of development activities in remote areas was one reason for the rising influence of Maoists and their immediate acceptance by locals, particularly youth.

To a question, he said Home Minister P Chidambaram had already invited the Maoists for talks and urged them give up violence as a mode of settling issues. “However, this invitation has not received a favourable response.”

Asked whether disciplinary action would be taken against the Kadapa Congress MP, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, for defying the party diktat not to take out a yatra in Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Mukherjee said: “Appropriate disciplinary action would be taken at [the] appropriate time.”

On the demand for more devolution of financial powers to the State governments, he said that as per the 12th Finance Commission recommendation for 30 per cent financial devolution, the Union government had already released additional funds of Rs.9,000 crore to the States. The 13th Finance Commission recommended 32 per cent devolution.

The Minister was non-committal on the demands for a special financial package to the backward Hyderabad-Karnataka region and for amendment of Article 371 of the Constitution to provide it a special status.

Labour and Employment Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge was present at the press conference.