Rs. 50 crore a year to develop Naxal-hit and backward areas

Debris of a truck, burned by Maoists in Latehar near Ranchi. Home Minister P. Chidambaram felt abject poverty was a breeding ground for extremism. File photo  

The Centre plans to spend about Rs. 50 crore per annum to improve basic social infrastructure in 60 Naxal-affected and backward districts, as part of an Integrated Action Plan that will be announced by the Planning Commission next week.

The scheme will give funding at the local — district, block and panchayat — level, in a drive to provide primary education, basic health, sanitation, drinking water and connectivity to these areas, said Home Minister P. Chidambaram here on Saturday.

The initiative would be a key part of the two-pronged approach to fighting Naxal extremism, he said, addressing district forest officers from Naxal-affected areas.

“This is in addition to SRE [Security Related Expenditure] and SIS [Special Infrastructure Scheme] funding,” he said, adding that the district administration would be expected to find innovative ways to spend the money. “One Collector may decide to fund a scholarship for poor students. Each must decide which are key priorities in his own area.”

The Minister indicated that while implementation of laws such as ESA and FRA might give rights to forest dwellers, the long-term solution lay in the basic development which would bring them out of the forests.

“To assume that, by conferring land rights on the forest dweller all his problems are taken care of, is wrong,” Mr. Chidambaram said. “No matter how much we romanticise life in the forest, let us remember that they are very poor. And as long as they continue the same kind of life, they will continue to remain poor… Preserving the status quo means preserving poverty.”

Such abject poverty was a breeding ground for extremism, he said, adding that once exposed to the advantages and opportunities of development, many would aspire to leave the forests. “They must know that the government is friendly to their way of life, but wants to help them change their way of life,” he said.

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh gave an assurance that forest conservation guidelines would not come in the way of implementing the new initiative, so long as it involved “public” infrastructure.

While Mr. Chidambaram indicated that the Integrated Action Plan would last five years, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia referred to a three-year period later in the same conference. While the details will be finalised in a Commission note to be released next week, between Rs. 45 and 50 crore will be provided to each district annually. Overall, more than Rs. 13,000 crore could be allocated.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 11:57:26 AM |

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