: Taking a cue from the North East where the State government and the Centre have successfully funded various agriculture and horticulture projects to transform militants, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is planning a similar initiative in the five worst Left Wing extremism (LWE)-affected States to help Maoists surrender arms and earn their livelihood.

Following field trails by the Rubber Board, the MHA in association with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has envisaged a plan to go for massive rubber plantation in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. After consulting officials and State governments concerned, the MHA is now finalising the quantum of grant that would be required to be spent on this ambitious project.

Success story in North East

Noting how rubber cultivation has turned out to be a major success story in rehabilitating militants in Tripura and Assam, a senior MHA official said: “Though operations by security forces are going on against Maoists, we feel that giving better livelihood opportunities to Naxals in their backyard would help them shun violence and lead a normal life. The scheme would be on the lines of the Udaan employment generation scheme for youths in Jammu and Kashmir that is being funded by the MHA.”

According to an internal note exchanged between the MHA and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry: “A very important and encouraging aspect of the cultivation of natural rubber is the role it has played in transforming militants and extremists into rubber planters in the North East. Cultivation of rubber with its high returns and productivity can prove to be an effective tool for minimising militancy and extremism as it would motivate the militants to engage themselves in this highly remunerative activity. Rubber cultivation is akin to the traditional occupation of farming and can be easily adopted in the region.”

“Though rubber is traditionally grown in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the non-traditional areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh hold great potential for rubber cultivation. Exploratory survey done by the Rubber Board indicates that a total of 50,000 hectares of land in the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha are suitable for rubber plantations,” it says.

The official note further says that the Rubber Board has prepared a project proposal that envisages creating 47.5 million man days of employment over 9 years, along with a forest cover of 5,000 hectares.

“The estimated cost of developing one hectare of rubber plantation is this region is estimated to be about Rs.3 lakh over the six year gestation period. This translates into a cost of about Rs.50,000 per hectare per year. During the gestation period, farmers will have to be supported with a subsidy and a wage component, which is gradually decreased as the plantations starts bearing produce, and ancillary activities like bee keeping for income generation. In addition to providing effective means of livelihood, rubber plantations can also support social and economic development of local communities, while helping in the eco-restoration of barren cultivable land by creating a forest cover in the area,” it adds.