New police stations in Chhattisgarhs vulnerable areas have
turned the tables against the Maoists
Security and development are the two buzz words used in reference to the Maoist-affected areas. Experience shows the two-pronged strategy of combating Maoism and ameliorating the condition of tribals cannot be implemented throughout in a straitjacketed manner. Whereas development works can be pushed into action almost immediately after the security set-up is established in the moderately affected areas,the same cannot be replicated in the severely affected areas known as liberated zones it is hard to get vendors to take up work in these Maoist base areas. The fear of life and property looms large. It is therefore wise to flood vulnerable areas with development programmes while the problem is in its nascent stage.
Shobha,a small village of nearly 1,000 people,in Gariyaband district of Chhattisgarh,was one of the many villages frequented by Maoists two years ago. Characterised by irregular electricity supply and the absence of culverts on interior routes,development projects had almost come to a halt in the district due to the rise in Maoist activities. Taking a proactive stance,Gariyaband was separated from Raipur and notified as a new district by the government so that the Maoist expansionist strategy could be checked. This paved the way for new police stations (PS) and security camps. The first PS,Shobha,was set up in August 2011. Its establishment was celebrated by the villagers with much enthusiasm,as if they were waiting for that moment to get rid of the Maoists. Life gradually took a U-turn. The villagers were no
longer forced to feed Maoists and bear their torture. They dont have to attend Maoist meetings now. Maoist road blockades suddenly disappeared. But the real change in villagers lives was seen when the police superintendent of Gariyaband,a young IPS officer named Ram Gopal Garg,made a herculean effort to bring electricity and ultimately succeeded.
Shobha now boasts regular electricity. It has become a centre of the board examination for students in the vicinity. Economic activity has gradually increased in terms of weekly markets and trade across state borders. Similar changes have been experienced by villagers of other PS areas. Bharat Netam,a resident of a nearby village,forcibly inducted into the Maoist cadre in 2006,said on surrendering that had sufficient forces been present in the area,he would not have wasted six years of his life. The newly carved out Gariyaband district has a better security set-up,with five additional PSs and Central armed police camps,which also act as launching pads for anti-Naxal operations.
The district is now witnessing accelerated development. A girls hostel,community health centre,Panchayat Vyavsayik Parisar are coming up in another new PS area called Amlipadar. The works halted about six years ago becasue of Maoists have been revived. With the increase in political activity,people are demanding a new block headquarters for administrative efficiency. Similarly,the establishment of PS Indagaon has kick-started several projects,including an Anganwadi Bhawan. The PSs are also instrumental in giving a fillip to cultural and social activities. Indeed,Gariyaband is gradually transforming into a model district for showcasing the governments two-pronged strategy of direct action
Its no exaggeration that development and security are two sides of the same coin. In conflict areas,if the first step of creating a secure environment is steadfastly trod by security forces,the second step must follow immediately to ensure the restoration of public confidence in the civil administration. The security vacuum must be filled by the forces and job opportunities created. If this chain of security and development continues,the reach of government can be extended to hitherto unattended areas. Otherwise,irrespective of whether it is a state or Central scheme,blackmailing by contractors demanding exorbitant rates or leaving projects half-complete or even refusing to deploy resources due to the Maoist threat,will continue.
Maoist ideology thrives on the misrepresented scenario of economic inequality among poor tribals. Large swathes of terrain,swamped by poverty and unemployment,along with the added advantage of being favourable to guerilla tactics,provide the Maoists ground to flourish and the opportunity to exploit the sentiments of the poor. They have no business with development. Statistics show that Maoists have blasted no less than a hundred school buildings and set ablaze more than 600 vehicles engaged in road construction in the last 10 years to keep development at bay.
The Maoist dream of creating a classless society by violence and by replacing democracy with the dictatorship of the proletariat may never come true,but the tribal ground must change through a non-violent social order. Education and employment guarantee must be the core objectives of the government to wean the youth away from the Maoists. No wonder a police station or a security camp can be instrumental in turning the tables.
The writer is additional director general of police in Chhattisgarh