India’s Naxal Problem – Part 4

This is the 4th and last article of the series on India's Naxal Problem
Government Efforts at Controlling Naxalism

The Government’s approach is to deal with Left Wing Extremism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management.

In dealing with this decades-old problem, it has been felt appropriate that an integrated approach aimed at the relatively more affected areas would deliver results. With this in view, a detailed analysis of the spread and trends in respect of Left Wing Extremist violence has been made and 106 districts in nine States have been taken up for special attention with regard to planning, implementation and monitoring various interventions.

However, ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ being State subjects, action on maintenance of law and order lies primarily in the domain of the State Governments.

The Central Government closely monitors the situation and supplements and coordinates their efforts in several ways. These include:

  • providing Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA);
  • sanction of India Reserve (IR) battalions, setting up of Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism (CIAT) schools;
  • modernisation and upgradation of the State Police and their Intelligence apparatus under the Scheme for Modernization of State Police Forces (MPF scheme);
  • re-imbursement of security related expenditure under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme;
  • filling up critical infrastructure gaps under the Scheme for Special Infrastructure in Left Wing Extremism affected States;
  • providing helicopters for anti-naxal operations, assistance in training of State Police through the Ministry of Defence, the Central Police Organisations and the Bureau of Police Research and Development;
  • sharing of Intelligence; facilitating inter-State coordination;
  • assistance in community policing and civic action programmes etc.

The underlying philosophy is to enhance the capacity of the State Governments to tackle the Maoist menace in a concerted manner.

The Central Government also monitors the implementation of Integrated Action Plan for LWE affected Districts (now called Additional Central Assistance to LWE affected districts) and various other development and infrastructure initiatives of Govt. of India.

The government strategy has often been termed as one of “clear, build, hold”. The following section explains this strategy.

Clear, Build, Hold

“Clear, Hold, Build” takes place in for phases, each one critical to the success. Here is how it works:

  1. Phase I is mainly preparation. This phase begins with formulation of a strategy and and ends once all necessary forces and equipment are on the ground.
  2. Phase II is centred around intelligencegathering, concerning estimated strength and size of the enemy. This information is then passed to forces who will be involved in the operation.
  3. Phase III, also known as “clear” will begin the actual military operation. This section requires forces to cordon off sections of enemy-controlled territory using roadblocks, checkpoints, and other means.Troops then move block by block, house by house, searching for weapons and other illegal activities. Once every building has been cleared, the operation will move to the fourth and final phase.
  4. Phase IV, also known as “hold and build” is the final phase in a successful execution of the “clear, hold, build” strategy. Once every building has been cleared, troops take up residence in temporary military headquarters, disguised as civilian buildings. Troopswork to gain the trust and respect of the local populations and work to restore basic services.

However, the strategy has had moderate-to-low success, due to poor strategizing, inadequate troops, inadequate training of forces, lack of familiarity with the terrain and support to Maoists from the locals.

Review and monitoring mechanisms
  • A number of review and monitoring mechanisms have been established by the Government of India in this regard. They include:
  • A Standing Committee of the Chief Ministers of the LWE affected States under the chairmanship of the Union Home Minister, to work out a coordinated policy and specific measures to deal with the Left Wing Extremism problem on the political, security and development fronts.
  • Review Group (earlier called the Task Force) under the Cabinet Secretary to review coordinated efforts across a range of development and security measures.
  • An Empowered Group of Officers, headed by the Member-Secretary Planning Commission, with officers from the development Ministries and the Planning Commission, to oversee effective implementation of development schemes in Left Wing Extremism affected States
  • An Empowered Committee under AS(LWE) was constituted on May 26, 2015 to review the progress of various developmental schemes/projects, with the JS (LWE) and the JS of the concerned ministries.
Other initiatives
  • MHA is monitoring the situation on a regular basis at various levels.
  • A Unified Command has been set up in the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand , Odisha and West Bengal. The Unified Command have officers from the security establishment, besides civilian officers representing the civil administration and it will carry out carefully planned counter LWE measures.
  • The Central Government approved a new scheme to assist the State Governments for construction/strengthening of 400 fortified police stations @ Rs. 2 crore each in Left Wing Extremism affected districts on 80:20 basis.
  • An Empowered Group of Officers was set up at the level of the Central Government to over-ride or modify existing instructions on implementation of various development programmes and flagship schemes, having regard to the local needs and conditions in Left Wing Extremism affected areas for accelerated development.
  • The Left Wing Extremism affected States have been asked to effectively implement the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) on priority, which categorically assigns rights over minor forest produce to the Gram Sabhas.
Important schemes for LWE affected states
  • Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme: Under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, funds are provided for meeting the recurring expenditure relating to insurance, training and operational needs of the security forces, rehabilitation of Left Wing Extremist cadres who surrender in accordance with the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the State Government concerned, community policing, security related infrastructure for village defence committees and publicity material.
  • Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS): The Scheme for Special Infrastructure in Leftwing Extremism affected States was approved in the Eleventh Plan, with an allocation of Rs. 500 crore, to cater to critical infrastructure gaps, which cannot be covered under the existing schemes. These relate to requirements of mobility for the police / security forces by upgrading existing roads / tracks in inaccessible areas, providing secure camping grounds and helipads at strategic locations in remote and interior areas, measures to enhance security in respect of police stations / outposts located in vulnerable areas etc. This scheme was expanded to provide funds for upgradation of infrastructure, weaponry, equipment and training of Special Forces of LWE affected States. From Financial Year 2015-16, the Scheme has been transferred to States as per budget provisions of M/o Finance.
  • Additional Central Assistance to LWE Districts (Earlier Integrated Action Plan-IAP): The NITI Aayog is implementing Integrated Action Plan (IAP) [now called Additional Central Assistance (ACA)] for 82 Selected Tribal and Backward Districts for accelerated development. The aim of this initiative is to provide public infrastructure and services in 82 affected / contiguous Districts.
  • Road Requirement Plan for LWE areas: The Road Requirement Plan (RRP) Phase-I was approved in February, 2009 for improvement of road connectivity in 34 extremely LWE affected districts in 8 States viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. The RRP-I envisages development of 1126 kms of National Highways and 4351 kms of State Roads (total 5477 kms), at a cost of Rs. 7300 crore. A length of 3769 kms has been built at an expenditure of Rs. 5111 crores till 01st September, 2015.
  • Installation of Mobile Towers: The Government has approved mobile towers at 2199 locations, identified by the MHA in consultation with BSNL/ State Governments in the 10 LWE affected States.
  • Scheme of Fortified Police Stations: The Home Ministry has sanctioned 400 police stations in 10 LWE affected States at a unit cost Rs. 2 crores under this scheme. A total of 238 of PSs have been completed.
  • Civic Action Programme: Under this scheme financial grants are sanctioned to CAPFs to undertake civic action in the affected states. The idea is to win the hearts and minds of local communities through small development schemes, which to some extent will mitigate the problems of people living in insurgency hit areas and also bring goodwill to security forces.
Concluding remarks: How India can win its war against LWE

The complexity of the causes of the Naxalism as well as its implications both for internal and external security reflect a solution that is multi-dimensional and calls for a synergy between the central governments and the states.

In order to comprehensively dissolve the threat of Naxalism, the government has to address its root causes. Socio-economic alienation and the dissatisfaction with the widening economic and political inequality will not be solved by military force alone, which seems to be the main instrument employed by the government.

The problem calls for a three-pronged solution: social and economic development, multi-lateral dialogue and military force.

Socio-economic development

As the Naxalites are fuelled by discontent from the marginalised and the poor, a larger percentage of the national budget must be allocated to addressing the needs of these regions. More of the national expenditure needs to be focused on developing these poorer regions through initiatives regarding health, education, social welfare and rural and urban development. Government service delivery should be improved in these tribal areas.

Both state and government must ensure that things such as statutory minimum wages, access to land and water sources initiatives are implemented.  In coming up with strategies for national economic growth, the government must always bear in mind the possible effects of fast growth for all socio-economic groups in a country as large and diverse as India. If the social needs of these marginalised people are addressed, there will be no discontent to fuel the Naxalite movements.

Dialogue

Second, the government should initiate sincere dialogue with these marginalised groups, the Naxalites and state leaders. The popularity of Naxalites with the adivasis is a reflection of the fact that the government has been unaware or “unapologetically indifferent to their plight”.  By communicating and starting a dialogue between these stakeholders, these groups will feel that they being listened to.

By opening dialogue, the government can give opportunity for the rebels to join the mainstream by showing them that solutions can be created together with the government, by being part of the political system in a legitimate way.  They no longer need to resort to violence to get the state’s attention. The challenge for India’s leaders will be to allow the necessary development in these poverty-stricken areas while acknowledging the rights of a neglected indigenous group.

Armed forces

Currently, the main instrument employed by the government to address the Naxalite threat is the increasing use of the armed forces. While some armed forces is still needed to combat against the Maoist guerrillas, it should not be the only solution. By only addressing the issue by brute force, government risks alienating civilians who are caught in the middle. Coercion of the state will only encourage people to rally against it.

Governance

The growing Naxalite insurgency also reflects a flaw in the federal structure. Because law and order is seen as a state responsibility, the central government is unable to be implement a coherent national strategy to address the threat.  In the absence of a near complete breakdown of public order or without the express request of the afflicted state, the central government cannot intervene. The government has the overall responsibility of mobilizing development, but it cannot do so without the support of the states.  The central government and the states need to cooperate together to solve the internal security threats and coordinate the implementation of this multi-dimensional approach.  Both must complement and support each other’s initiatives and strategies.

Conclusion

Naxalism reflects underlying issues in the Indian social, economic and political institutions which threaten to expose India to even more danger from outside forces.

While the movement is mainly an internal threat, with globalisation, external and internal security threats are inextricably linked. The complex and multi-faceted approach to solving the Naxalite issue also reflects the fact that this is the biggest menace to India’s security in the future.

The government has to adopt a multi prong strategy for the solution to this problem. The use of force in the affected areas cannot achieve this alone; it also requires a synergy between various agencies of the central and state governments.

Nepal is the good example for Indian government as well as Naxalites where the Maoist have agreed to be a part of parliamentary democracy. This should happen in India but for that the democracy in affected areas has to be made more engaging by strengthening the institutions like Panchayati Raj and making development schemes more inclusive.