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