`States should revisit anti-Maoist strategy`

The states worst-affected by Maoists were asked to revisit their strategy.

Updated: Jul 14, 2010, 18:49 PM IST

New Delhi: The four states worst-affected by the Maoists - Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal - were Wednesday asked to revisit their operational strategy and create a unified command with a retired major general as its member.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said the states should coordinate their anti-Maoist security operations as it is their "primary role and responsibility" to enforce law and order and confront the challenge of left wing extremism.

"The central government acknowledges the primary role and responsibility of the state governments in enforcing law and order and in confronting the challenge of left wing extremism," Chidambaram said, addressing the meeting of Maoist affected states chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

The government, he said, "will request the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal to create a unified command for anti-Naxal operations and appoint a retired major general of the Army as a member".

The home minister said the four states will be asked to appoint an inspector general of police as IG (Anti-Maoist operations) for that state and appoint an inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as IG (Operations) and the two should work in close coordination.

He said the central government had a role and responsibility in assisting the state governments "in every way - deploying central paramilitary forces, sharing intelligence, funding the modernisation of police forces and providing logistics and other support".

In other major announcements to make anti-Maoist operations more effective, the Home Minister said the central government would provide more helicopters for logistics support, troop movement, supplies and evacuation.

"We will also fund the establishment and strengthening of 400 police stations in the affected districts and give Rs.2 crore for each police station," he said.

The government has also sanctioned additional special police officers in the Maoist affected states.

He said the decisions were taken in the light of experience gained in the last six months of fighting Maoist insurgency which Manmohan Singh repeatedly refers to as "the gravest threat to India`s internal security".

Maoist guerrillas have intensified their attacks on security forces in the last few months. More than 200 security men have been killed in major strikes since April this year.

Chidambaram said the security operations should be followed by developmental work in the affected areas and asserted that an empowered group chaired by member-secretary, Planning Commission will modify existing norms and guidelines to implement various development schemes keeping in view local needs and conditions in the districts.

He said road connectivity in 34 Maoist-hit districts will be improved and a number of roads and bridges are proposed to be built at a cost of Rs.950 crore.

The Planning Commission, he said, "is considering a special development plan for the affected districts with emphasis on road connectivity, primary education, primary health care and drinking water".

He said the state governments will be requested to ensure that rights over minor forest produce are assigned to the village level bodies and the inter-position of government controlled departments, corporations and cooperatives are removed.

The Chief Ministers of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, the governor of Jharkhand, which is under President`s Rule, a minister from West Bengal as well as Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony attended the meeting at the prime minister`s 7, Race Course Road residence.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in his address to the meeting struck a discordant note on the government`s anti-Maoist policy, saying the leftist rebels were "part of our society" and that the problem should be tackled with sustained development and not with an "enforced action alone".

"Naxal elements are a part of our society even though they have been misled into following the path of violence," Nitish Kumar said.

"Enforcement action alone leads to wider alienation, making heroes out of the leaders of the extremist organisations," he said.

His Chhattisgarh counterpart advocated an "integrated action plan" to fight left wing rebels saying state governments were dealing with the issue in their own way.

"An integrated action plan should be devised and all of us should be on one common point," Raman Singh said.