Editorial

Development and security

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Development comes in many forms and serves multiple purposes. Over the last few months, the Central government has initiated a series of steps to upgrade communications and transport >infrastructure in areas affected by naxalite activity. The larger project is to not only usher in development in the tribal areas and improve the living conditions of populations in hilly and forest terrains, but also facilitate security operations against Maoists, who specialise in ambushes and hit-and-retreat tactics. Hundreds of mobile phone towers have been erected along the >Red Corridor, and roads and bridges are being built to connect naxalite-affected districts. Ending the isolation of some of the villages in remote areas of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand is, no doubt, part of a strategy to win over local populations and wean them away from the influence of armed groups of Maoists. But, coming as it does with heavy deployment of Central police forces, such infrastructure development is suspect in the eyes of many villagers in the tribal regions. The ‘development’ is often seen more as an effort to allow access to tribal areas for security personnel in pursuit of Maoists rather than as an attempt to open up the outside world to the villages. Invariably, the state is seen as an external agency waiting to wield its authority and extend its reach without allowing substantial consequential benefits to the villages. Any state-sponsored activity, even if it is in the name of development, is thus met with hostility, and viewed as no more than an extension of the security apparatus.

Better facilities can at best mark the beginning of a process of addressing the livelihood concerns and social insecurities of tribal populations. Without investing in health and education infrastructure, increasing employment opportunities, and raising the quality of life in tribal areas, it would be difficult to address the >socio-economic grievances that feed into the Maoist agenda. While the government ought to do everything in its power to end arbitrary and irrational violence by the Maoists, ‘development’ should not be reduced to building mobile towers, roads and bridges. Democratic institutions are yet to take root in many of the villages where Maoists have their sympathisers. In many areas Maoists have assumed a representative character and elections are boycotted at the instance of leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Thus, merely concentrating on upgrading infrastructure without addressing long-standing grievances will not meet the government’s objectives. Representative institutions in the villages must be made party to decision-making in the development process, which should go beyond the infrastructure needs of the security personnel.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2019 9:25:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/development-and-security/article7708000.ece

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