‘Projects flouting reflect new face of Naxalism’



Hyderabad: Underlining rural development as the key to tackle Left wing extremism, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday said "a modern face of Naxalism" is reflected in the projects that violate the environmental and forest norms.

"The modern face of Naxalism is reflected in projects that flout environment and forest norms....projects like Posco, Vedanta, bauxite mining in Araku and (thermal project) in Sompeta. These are serious issues that could acquire Naxal overtones if not handled well," the Union Minister told a press conference after a review meeting on Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected districts in Andhra Pradesh here.

Ramesh said controlling Naxalism through development should be the mantra and the "most pressing task" was to resolve land-related issues.

"In the long run, Naxalism can be countered successfully through proper, transparent and accountable rural development programmes," he added.

"Land records, productivity and management are very significant. Secondly, we need a completely different approach to manpower planning and we also need to invest more in infrastructure like housing. The storage infrastructure in rural areas has to be expanded for agriculture produce and minor forest produce," the minister said.

Highlighting the "five characteristics" of Naxal-infested districts, Ramesh said, "Most of them are tribal-dominated, most are forest-rich, most are mineral-rich and most are in tri-junction areas like Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh-AP, AP-Chhattisgarh-Odisha and they are remote, very distant from the state headquarters with no proper road connectivity and infrastructure problems".

Stating that the Central government was considering a proposal to enhance the number of LWE districts from 60 to 78, the rural development minister, however, mooted a shift from district-based to area-based approach, particularly in areas that cut across states.

"A mandal (as in Andhra Pradesh) or block-based approach is needed for classifying the LWE areas instead of the district as a unit. I have suggested this to the Union Home Minister as well as the Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission," he said.

Referring to Andhra Pradesh government's Rs 2200 crore infrastructure development plan in tri-junction areas, bordering states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa, he promised to take it up with the Union Home Ministry as well as the Planning Commission for approval.

Hailing the rural development initiatives in Andhra Pradesh, a state he represents in Rajya Sabha, Ramesh said the situation was not as bad in the state as in other states as far as LWE was concerned.

"The situation is infinitely bad in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. We recommended that those states follow the AP's Integrated Tribal Development Agency model for development. Of course, we have a long way to go (in AP) and can't remain complacent," said Ramesh.

Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, state Rural Development Minister D Manikya Vara Prasad, Chief Secretary SV Prasad, Collectors of eight LWE-affected districts and other senior officials attended the meeting.

PTI