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Monday, June 09, 2014  
Why Orissa is Dear to the Naxalites
"Situation remains as chaotic as before in the field. The exploiters continue their depredations; poor people continue to struggle; apathy of government is noticed in abundance. The extremists have trained their guns only on the security staff who, by and large, come from poor families and in most of the cases a sepoy could be the sole government employee in the family and major breadwinner."
Dr Prasanna Mishra
   

No better example can demonstrate the attitude of the Orissa government to the Left Wing Extremists than the response of the three Ministers of the state who were in the Koraput region when the dastardly act of the extremists near Boipariguda killed eleven policemen of the state on the fourth of April 2010. Those killed were in the prime of their youth; none of them was born with a silver spoon in his mouth—a factor that could have annoyed the messiahs of the proletariat. The Ministers could have shown respect to those killed; they could have placed wreaths on the slain bodies. They didn’t.

One could appreciate their compulsions. They had important affairs of the state to attend to. They were to ensure victory of the Ruling Party in the impending election to the urban bodies of Balimela and Sunabeda scheduled on the sixth of April. This explains the priorities of the present government. The Party must rule, everywhere in the state. Governance can be only a peripheral issue.

What have these extremist elements done for the state and what benefits have they brought to the people so far? Did they stop illegal mining in the mining belt mostly inhabited by tribal communities? Did they take any mining mafia to task? Did they intercept overloaded Lorries carrying stolen iron ore? Did they take anybody to task for showing favour at check-gates or weighbridges? Considering the total silence of these principled men and women when the state was witnessing a loot of mind-boggling proportion, one would wonder whether their concern for the downtrodden has ever been more than skin-deep. Number of landless peasants is quite high in Orissa. Such peasants, in many cases, till the land of others and enjoy a share of the crop. Land Reforms in the state have been half hearted. In spite of this, even the Left Parties in the state do not talk of land reforms in the state. Did the extremists ever take up this issue and initiate a movement to bestow tenancy right on such peasants who have been tilling the land for years and getting only a share of the crop? Have the extremists stopped operations of the moneylenders who charge usurious interest? Have they ensured that schools in remote tribal areas regularly run? Situation remains as chaotic as before in the field. The exploiters continue their depredations; poor people continue to struggle; apathy of government is noticed in abundance. The extremists have trained their guns only on the security staff who, by and large, come from poor families and in most of the cases a sepoy could be the sole government employee in the family and major breadwinner.

With such a poor record as harbinger of a dawn of prosperity for the exploited, the extremists should stand discredited and certainly cannot be considered as invincible. Government must demonstrate its determination to rid the state of the menace. The state government, unfortunately, seems to have swiftly reached a conclusion that the problem is nothing more than a law and order issue. That too, it is an issue that needs to be tackled primarily by the central force. Here is the grand fallacy. The state police apparatus continues to be under staffed and ill equipped. It is yet to demonstrate high degree of professionalism. The situation must improve, quickly. There has been no effort to activate political forces to meet the challenge of the extremists. State administration must ensure that schools with teachers run regularly, hospitals are functional with staff and equipment; PDS sops run regularly; kerosene is available even at the remotest of habitations. The youth must be assisted in getting jobs. More and more job opportunities must be created in the affected areas. People must have a feeling that there is rule of law. Every one concerned must be sensitised that the fish of extremism flourishes in a pond of deprivation. Deprivation need not be only material. A person socially marginalised would have a feeling of deprivation. A section of people, which for some reason has found itself low in self-esteem, may find the call of the extremists attractive. We must therefore ensure that every segment of our society feels that it is in the main stream. This has to be achieved through a political process and political parties must come forward to play their role. It may be of interest to recollect the exact occurrence that triggered the Naxalbari revolt in 1967. Naxalbari, a remote village, had a tribal youth named Bimal Kissan. He obtained a judicial order to plough his land and was attacked by the landlord and his musclemen. This demonstrated the quality of governance and our attitude towards rule of law. Collective tribal retaliation resulted and the rebellion snowballed.

In the ultimate analysis the spread and intensity of the activities of the extremists is related to the quality of governance. Government of our state is yet to demonstrate its ability in this area. If the continuing casual approach to governance persists, the extremists would find the state hospitable.

(Author is a Retired IAS and Former Secretary to Government of India)

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