New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday called for "holistic development" in backward areas to fight Left-wing extremism and admitted that government-sponsored schemes "have not worked well" in bridging the alienation of the tribals who are being lured by Maoist rebels.
"The problems of marginalised sections of our country, many of whom live in areas which are affected by Left-wing extremism, call out for special attention," Manmohan Singh said, addressing the annual meeting of the National Development Council here.
"Our development schemes have not worked well in these backward and impoverished parts of our country, particularly the areas inhabited by the adivasi (tribal) population," he said, in a shift from the government`s policy of tackling the Left-wing insurgency as a law and order problem.
He also called for "a concerted effort to bridge the development deficit in these backward areas".
The prime minister said the suggestion by chief ministers in the meeting have been taken note of.
"The Planning Commission is working on integrated plan of development of selected backward districts which would help strengthen the development element in the fight against extremism keeping in mind the suggestion made here," he said.
The Left-wing extremism and the ways to tackle it in 33-affected districts of the mineral rich east and central India figured prominently in agenda of the 55th meeting of the NDC chaired by the prime minister.
On Saturday, Manmohan Singh didn`t refer to Maoist insurgency as the "biggest" internal security challenge of the country as he had been repeatedly saying so, but called for "a concerted effort to bridge the development deficit" to tackle the alienation of the impoverished people.
In a discussion paper prepared by the Planning Commission ahead of the daylong meeting, it was noted that the country`s tribals, who account for 8.2 percent of the 1.2 billion population, had not benefited adequately from India`s development.
The paper linked the lack of adequate development in tribal areas to the Left-wing extremism.
The apparent shift in the government policy is being attributed to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC).
Many members of the NAC are said to be opposed to Home Minister P. Chidambaram`s policy of tackling the problem with police action.
Manmohan Singh said the government would "reduce whatever sense of alienation that may exist among the `adivasis` living in these areas. As the word `adivasi` implies, they were the original inhabitants and their rights must be fully protected".
At the same time he said there should be no doubt that Maoist insurgency needed to be "met with and it will be met with the centre and the states cooperating fully with one another".
But this, he said, "must be supplemented by action on two other fronts. We must recognise that good governance alone gives people a sense of participation and empowerment. Failure to implement the (Forest Rights Act and Panchayati Raj Act) laws in letter and spirit reduces the credibility of our commitment to bring development to these neglected regions."
He exhorted that these areas "must be provided with additional resources for development and the development programmes must be aligned to the special circumstances of these areas".
"I have asked the Planning Commission to design a holistic development programme for these areas in consultation with the states and other stakeholders," the prime minister said.