As the NDA government wraps up its first year in office, action on one of its priority areas — that of beefing up infrastructure and security in Left wing extremism (LWE) affected states — is yet to gain traction.
The government’s much-hyped anti-Naxal policy still largely remains a plan on paper and on deliverables such as building roads, it seems to have done marginally better than what the UPA managed in LWE affected areas.
Consider this. Since 2009, when the then Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a Road Requirement Plan (RRP) plan for improvement of road connectivity in LWE affected areas of 34 districts in eight states at a cost of Rs 7,300 crore with an expanded scope of 5,477 kms road length, a total of 3,471 kms was constructed under the programme at a cost of Rs 4,617 crore till February this year. Since the NDA came to power, despite several announcements, 547 kms were added till February this year, against 544 kms built in the year-ago period.
Unlike the UPA, the NDA cannot give an excuse of non-cooperation by states as five of the ten LWE affected states are either ruled by BJP or a coalition partner.
The worst affected Chhattisgarh has in fact seen an increase in Naxal-related incidents in the first three months of this year, with 164 Naxal related incidents reported in 2015, compared with 95 in the year-ago period. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Maoist-affected Dantewada in Chhattisgarh on May 9, a first by any Prime Minister in the country.
The overall situation is also far from better with 314 incidents reported in the ten affected states against 280 last year from January to March. Even as the implementation of road projects is struggling to pick up, the government’s plan to improve the quality of telecommunication services in LWE affected areas too is struggling to take off.
The Centre has approved a proposal to install mobile towers at 1,836 locations in LWE-affected states with funding support from Universal Service Obligation Fund, of which, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is estimated to have installed mobile towers at 363 locations till December 2014.
With the progress on building physical infrastructure still to show results, the ministry of rural development too is learnt to have launched project ‘Roshni’ under Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana for training of youth from 27 most critical LWE affected districts across Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to bring them back into the mainstream.
A senior home ministry official said, “It’s not true that nothing has been done regarding that policy. We made a draft policy and then circulated it to states, Central armed police forces and other stakeholders and sought their comments. In February this year, we called a meeting and took note of their demands. We then circulated the policy to all the states and asked them to comply with it. What is sent to the Cabinet is the financial component in the policy like increased risk allowance and sanction for RRP-II.”
The official said that security personnel belonging to Central forces of CRPF, SSB, BSF, ITBP and CISF do not get risk allowance at par with their colleagues posted in Jammu and Kashmir or the insurgency hit areas of Northeast.
A constable posted in J&K gets Rs 3,750 as risk allowance and one posted in the Northeast gets Rs 3,601. In the LWE areas the allowance is Rs 2,875.
“We are trying to bring the risk allowance at par with that in J&K. This has been a long standing demand,” said the official.
Another area, which requires Cabinet’s nod and cannot be done by the ministry alone is enhanced compensation for Naxals who want to surrender. MHA has proposed up to Rs 5 lakh as one time payment to surrendered Maoists.
The amount during UPA’s tenure was Rs 2.5 lakh. The monthly stipend for three years to surrendered Naxals is also proposed to be increased from Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000. MHA recently sanctioned ten battalions of Central forces for Chhattisgarh alone. Of them, five (roughly 5,000) were deployed in the state a month ago. Its not merely the boots on the ground but also a solid intelligence network that would change the situation.