Plan panel divided over raising number of Naxal-hit distt

The Planning Commission seems to be divided over the issue of raising the number of Naxal- infested districts from 35 to 60.

New Delhi: The Planning Commission seems to
be divided over the issue of raising the number of Naxal-
infested districts from 35 to 60, which will be covered under
the integrated action plan (IAP)being formulated by the panel.

One school of thought in the Commission is of the view
that such a move will result in reduced funds for each of
these districts, while the other thinks that improvement in
governance is the first requirement for capacity-building so
that the allocated money can be absorbed properly.

In an internal meeting yesterday, the panel discussed
the proposal of increasing the number of Naxal-hit districts
from the original 35 to 60 under the IAP being formulated for
these Naxal-affected districts spread across nine states.

"The improved governance and capacity to absorb funds
for development hold the key. Money will be provided on the
basis of performance," panel member Mihir Shah pointed out.

"The already-allocated fund is not being used properly
as there is no capacity to absorb it. First we need to develop
the capacity for fund absorption through improved governance,"
Shah argued.

He further said fund allocation will be at the back-end.
First we have to ensure implementation of the Panchayats
Extension (to Schedule Areas) Act of 1996 so as to give the
tribals the right to use minor forest produce.

Under the IAP, fund allocation comes at the later stage
which will be given on the basis of improved performance in
the select districts covered under the programme, he said.

However, member secretary Sudha Pillai argues that such
a move will not be of any particular help."There is a proposal
from some members that the number of Naxal-hit districts under
the IAP be increased from 35 to 60. But in that case, each
district would get less money. Also, the Commission is yet to
finalise the proposal. Once it is done, only after that the
IAP will be sent to the Cabinet."

The Commission is working on the IAP that will include a
financial package of Rs 13,742 crore for the 35 Naxal-affected
districts. This special package came to the Commission from
the Cabinet Committee on Security. The three-year package aims
at infrastructure development in these districts like roads,
drinking water and electrification.

The package assumes special significance in the backdrop
of the government`s flagship programmes such as the Bharat
Nirman and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme not
achieving much success in these areas.

Many parts of as many as nine states -- Andhra Pradesh,
Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra,
Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- are in the grip of