Behind the Chhattisgarh governments sudden directive to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to suspend its operations in Maoist-hit Bijapur district of Bastar region is a possible security concern. While the state governments official stand claims that ICRC had not signed an MoU,a pre-requisite for its medicare operations,and was therefore sent the notice,highly placed sources told The Indian Express that a possibility of the agency providing health facilities to Maoists prompted the decision.
In fact,ICRC had been working in Kutru village of Bijapur for over two years without the MoU,but the state government asked it to suspend its operations only last week. Also,ICRC had a similar medicare centre in Chintalnar area of Sukma,another Maoist-hit district of South Bastar,but the government order pertains only to Bijapur. Chintalnar is comparatively remotely located than Kutru,which is well-connected by a motorable road.
NGOs operating in such insurgency-hit areas mostly tend to favour extremists. They support them,provide them humanitarian aid. In an area where government doctors cannot visit,how do they manage to work? Sometimes we ignore it,but sometimes we have to step in, said a senior officer.
The matter came to light last week when ICRC received a letter from Bijapur Collector Mohammad Qaiser Abdul Haque asking them to suspend operations. Haque claimed that while ICRC has not yet formed an MoU with the state government,it also needed to sort out some diplomatic issues with the Centre.
The issue of non-signing of the MoU regarding medicare services in some of the remotest areas emerged in a state that often boasts of implementing the maximum number of business-related MoUs. This when the ICRC are operating from a government primary health centre and send weekly report to the Collector.
Speaking to The Indian Express,ICRC communication coordinator Marek Resich refused to comment on the nature of MoUs required to sign with the state and the Central governments. We have got a letter (from the Bijapur administration) and we are seeking clarification from the governments, he said.
Principal secretary to Chief Minister N Baijendra Kumar echoed the official stand,denied any security concern and insisted that non-formation of the MoU was the only reason for the government action.
In fact,a few years ago the then SSP Dantewada S R P Kalluri had accused ICRC of providing medicare facilities to the Maoists,and even claimed that a few rebels were arrested with its medicines. The humanitarian agency has refuted the charges.