Thursday, August 20, 2009

Raman opposes pitching army against Naxals

NEW DELHI: The centre may have kept open the option of engaging the Army, most probably Rashtriya Rifles, in counter-Naxal operations at some point of time, but Chhattisgarh on Tuesday strongly opposed a military solution saying it would only further alienate the people against the State.

Speaking to ET a day after the chief ministers’ meeting on internal security here, Chhattisgarh chief minister
Raman Singh insisted that the state police and civilian forces like CRPF and BSF were not only well-equipped to deal with the Maoist extremists but also better oriented to dealing with human aspect of the Naxalite problem.

Involving the Army, he suggested, would obviously mean a tougher and surgical approach to eliminating the “enemy” Naxalites with military precision, which could only add to the discontent and breed further rebellion within the people’s militia.

“In any case, the state police and civilian forces of the Union such as CRPF and BSF are enough to tackle the
extremists...all we need is the support of modern and precise technology to identify our targets and map the
approach routes,” Mr Singh pointed out.

According to Mr Singh, the Centre, by proposing to launch a major anti-Maoist offensive across states, had only heeded a long-pending request of his government for an integrated action plan to deal with a national problem like Left-wing extremism.

Setting aside the piecemeal approach that required the affected states to tackle the Naxalites on their respective soil, the Centre has now decided to take the lead in a major counter-offensive in the inter-state junctions running through Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

During the consultations with the seven Naxal-affected states on the upcoming post-monsoon operation to flush out Maoists, the Centre not only managed to get all the states on board but also was assured by them of a requisite police component for the offensive.

There was consensus on an action plan of MHA for joint inter-state operations, with additional director general or IG-level officer of CPMF designated as task force commander. A single CPMF would be given charge of operations in a given area to avoid any duplication of authority or jurisdiction hassles.

Mr Singh appreciated the proposed technology-driven operations, employing tools like GPS and GIS for mapping the Naxalite-infested terrain, saying it could help achieve in a few months what could not be achieved in the last 35years.

“The plan is to carry out operations in an area to liberate it from Maoists, hold the area and then bring in
administration and development...this is the correct approach,” the chief minister insisted. The finer details of
the operation are to be discussed when Union home minister P Chidambaram visits the Naxal-hit states in September.

“The real operational planning is to be done individually between Mr Chidambaram and the respective state
governments,” a senior Chhattisgarh government official here said, adding the state police was keen to deploy all of its six counter-Naxal battalions for the pending offensive.

At the same time, Raman Singh raised the slow progress of road construction project by the Border Roads
Organisation (BRO) in the Naxal-infested areas of Chhattisgarh while demanding that the deadline be extended to enable completion of the remaining 60 km.

“The BRO is engaged in Chhattisgarh until 2010, but we have requested the Centre to ensure that the agency does not quit from the state until they have laid the entire 144-km stretch,” Mr Singh said, also putting in a word of praise for the excellent quality of roads laid by BRO.


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