In the backdrop of the Maoist attack on a Congress Parivartan rally in Chhattisgarh last week,Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde came under severe criticism for his absence after he chose to extend his stay in the US,where he had gone to attend an India-US homeland security dialogue. He finally returned on Thursday. On Friday,after visiting Chhattisgarh,he spoke to SWARAJ THAPA. Excerpts of the interview.
You are just back from Chhattisgarh. How was your visit?
I took a review of the Chhattisgarh situation in the backdrop of the May 25th incident. All senior officials including home secretary,chief secretary,DGP,DG CRPF and NIA chief were there. The Chief Minister and the Governor were there. I did a complete review as to what exactly happened and the action that needs to be taken.
What was the outcome of the meeting? What did you decide?
We will work jointly with the state and have joint operations in tackling the problem of Naxalism. My officials went to Chhattisgarh earlier and worked out a joint action plan. We will therefore be working together,both in this case as well as in the future. Our level of cooperation in working with Chhattisgarh government will be more. I have also placed additional Central forces at the disposal of the state government.
You said yesterday that Naxals are going to target urban centres.
No,I never said that Naxals are going to target urban centres. Papers have reported wrongly. I had said that only in Pune there is a possibility. And I said this because some members of a front organisation of Naxals had been arrested in Pune. They engaged in some activity there earlier. So I only pointed to the possibility that since this Chhattisgarh incident has happened,more such incidents can happen. But my words were twisted. I never mentioned any other city.
Many in the Congress party have put the blame on state government.
The inquiry is going on. I will not accuse anybody at this moment. The investigation is going on. I have instituted an inquiry and only when its report comes,I will be able to say something.
What is the kind of cooperation you are expecting from Chief Minister Raman Singh?
He is cooperating very much. When I proposed that the case should be given to NIA,he immediately agreed to it. I talked to him twice from the US.
Why did you decide to hand over the case to the NIA? Naxal attacks have been usually probed by joint investigating teams in the past.
Serious cases are looked into by NIA. One has to look at the gravity of the case. They will be able to do a good job. They have a good investigation team.
How will be security given to political rallies in the backdrop of this attack?
Whichever party will take out rallies to participate in the democratic process,they have to be given full protection. A nodal officer at the level of DG has been appointed there now. He will be coordinating and providing security to political rallies and workers. Full protection is to be given to those engaged in political activity.
What other steps are to be taken?
We have said that locals should be recruited in police and other security forces. We will be giving relaxation in recruitment norms,particularly chest,education and height relaxations,to see that tribals get more jobs. I have also asked the state government to expedite building of roads on which they raised the issue of approvals,saying that surface transport ministry approval is required for projects costing over Rs 10 crore. I told them that they can split the projects into smaller ones. I also assured that I will talk to the surface transport minister on speeding up approvals.
Your visit to the US came under severe criticism from the Opposition as well as from within your own party.
Yesterday itself I made myself clear on the issue. My official work ended on May 23. I was supposed to leave on 24th but I got an appointment with eye specialist Dr Bressler only for 28 th as he was out of the country in Malaysia. So I stayed back. This incident (attack) happened on May 25. Even if I had come immediately,I would have reached here only on 27th. Dr Bressler was in Malaysia as there were three holidays in the US on 25th,26th and 27th. So I could not have come. I had already informed the Prime Minister as well as Congress president Sonia Gandhi about extension of my visit and the reasons. I had even given it in writing.
How was your meeting with US home land security officials?
I had an absolutely good meeting. We have got good cooperation on the issue of tackling fake currency. We also raised the issue of David Headley and Tahawwur Rana,both involved in the Mumbai attacks and sought their extradition. They have a problem regarding extradition of Headley,but on Rana I have got positive response. Even on Headley,though,we have said that he should be given to us,temporarily,for a year. I feel they may take some decision on Rana. That is what I felt.
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