September 18, 2013 11:55:50 pm
In July,Gadchiroli SP Suvez Haque,34,was invited by the home ministry to make a presentation before police officers of 27 left-wing extremism-affected states on the Gadchiroli model,which had led to a record 23 Maoists being killed in the year since he joined. Police attribute the success to a more confident force and the trust of locals on account of various schemes.
In August and September came the arrests of alleged Maoist couriers Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi,whose mission the police now describe as a pointer to the districts strategic importance. Mishra was allegedly planning to enter Abujhmaad in Chhattisgarh through Lahiri,the last motorable point on the Maharashtra side.
Roads are central to the polices plans for helping the district shed the tag of being the gateway to Abujhmaad; Maoists find it easy to dodge security forces,who managed to enter Abujhmaad for the first time only in March 2012. A 500-km road network (the exisiting network is 12,383 km) has been pending for the 32 years since Gadchiroli was carved out of Chandrapur district.
With road contractors unwilling to associate themselves with the administration,they are now being provided security clandestinely,district administration sources say.
The district has 268 villages that remain to be electrified. And 211 habitations bordering Chhattisgarh remain cut off. The Centre has now approved a plan for 37 mobile towers,which will come up in the next one year.
It is not just a police problem. Policing and development have to go hand in hand, says Haque,the SP. Yet he predicts,The next one year will be a watershed in the history of Gadchiroli.
He describes how police have won the trust of locals: We have started a Gram Bhet scheme where policemen visit every village and note local problems. It could be about a bore-well,absent teachers or the electricity pole. The civic action team sends these complaints to the concerned authorities.
Till August 15,the police had visited 2,800 villages; in the entire previous year,they had visited 2,678. Where we were going once a year earlier,we are going ten times now, Haque says. District magistrate Abhishek Krishna adds,We are going to areas where earlier we didnt. One of our tehsildars is so popular that he can win an election.”
The state administration has started the Navjeevan Yojana under which officers visit the families of Naxal leaders. The administration and the police also organise vocational training and many locals have got jobs at urban coffee outlets,and as guards. Posters countering Maoist propaganda are drawing villagers to schemes,and Maoists to surrender policies. Police estimate the district has 300 Maoists.
Krishna says development work has to be sustained for the next 10 years. Our focus is on forest products as these will sustain generations. We have done away with middlemen. Earlier they were getting Rs 20 for,say,10 kg mahua flowers; now they get Rs 20 a kg. We have 22 branches of various banks and now to reach remote locations we are trying to open ultra-small branches.
One task Haque had to handle early was to lift the forces morale after the killing of 52 Maharashtra policemen in 2009 alone,which had led to the CRPF being deployed in 19 of the 50 police posts in border areas. Whenever I hold a meeting,I ask about their problems,note these down and make it a point to solve them within seven days. We have also opened a helpline called Samadhaan,which I monitor, says Haque. Today my men fight over going for operations. Earlier there would seldom be volunteers.
The CRPF has 5,000 men deployed and the district police recently said in a meeting they would like them phased out. This has upset CRPF officers,one of whom says,We are not claiming any credit but it was since we came here that the number of deaths of security personnel has considerably dropped. Earlier,these men were too scared to even step out of their security posts. Our force is deployed in all the difficult posts. The fact that the police have been able to carry out operations is because we have held fort on the border. All the police operations are along the middle axes.
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