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Road to end Naxal menace?

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 22, 2007

NEW DELHI: In a fresh initiative, the Planning Commission has formulated an “arterial road” blueprint to help hot pursuit of Left-wing rebels and to open up the affected districts for trade.

The ambitious plan aims to create two major arteries — first, connecting Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh with Ranchi in Jharkhand, and the second, linking Bastar in Chhattisgarh with the Vijayawada-Ranchi highway or straight with Ranchi.

The home ministry recently discussed the action plan, ‘Development Strategy for Naxal Affected Areas’, with four related ministries — rural development, tribal affairs, panchayati raj and environment and forests.

To counter planting of mines by Naxals, the panel has suggested an “intensive” cement-concrete road network under PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) in the most affected areas to interlink all hamlets having a population of 250.

The paper is a result of growing concern over the Naxal problem, now raging in 125 districts (over 20% of total 604) of 13 states, expanding from just 55 five years ago, a Plan panel source said.

It has sought creation of a rural electrification “backbone” under RGGVY (Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana), besides making BSNL and/or private operators ensure complete mobile phone connectivity in the affected regions.

“In many of these districts, local administration has been paralysed and a parallel government holds sway. There is a consensus that this is not primarily a security problem but has roots in the feeling of oppression and desperation fuelled by poverty and lack of development,” says the blueprint.

MHA has appended the note to discuss a “methodology for more focused action for effective implementation of development schemes in states/districts affected by Naxalite problem”.

The paper stresses that the affected regions are mostly tribal-dominated, forested and mineral-rich. “Despite being resource-rich, the local population has remained poor.

Forest wealth and minerals have been exploited by ‘outsiders’ with almost no local value addition. Administration has been thin and weak, connectivity poor and the more difficult areas can only be reached on foot. There is also near absence of education and health facilities,” it says.

To check employee absenteeism, the panel has suggested use of biometric identification and radio frequency. The commission wants the affected states to accord priority to the vulnerable pockets in implementing core development schemes and inform the Centre if any relaxation of norms is necessary to ensure that the areas are not left out.

The aim, it says, should be to “saturate” the difficult areas with facilities as these regions usually lack the “political voice” which developed areas use to corner funds.

“An employment plan should be prepared as part of the district plan through the convergence of various schemes. A skill development initiative should be taken up on massive scale. Information communication technology should be used with an imaginative media policy to ensure that information related to the programmes is available to everyone. Local culture, dialects and perceptions should be used to prevent disinformation and subversive propaganda,” the blueprint suggests.


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