In a move that seeks to check Maoist expansion without firing a shot, the Centre has told the affected states to recruit tribal youths in a new class of police constabulary.
The plan, inspired by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s project in the area in the Junglemahal — West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts in Bengal and vast tracts in Jharkhand and Odisha — seeks to offer financial security to the tribals who could, otherwise, end up as foot-soldiers for the Maoists.
The home ministry recently asked state chief secretaries and police chiefs to replicate the model in their respective states to get to the tribal youths before the Maoists do. A home ministry official conceded in Delhi: “In a single stroke, the Mamata model had nixed Maoist plans to recruit cadres from these areas.”
Last one year, she has recruited nearly 5,000 tribal youths as “junior constables” for the 28 police station areas of Junglemahal.
Tribals, who did not stand a chance to get anywhere close to a government job if the state hadn’t lowered the eligibility conditions or made them compete with candidates from the cities.
The home ministry, too, had been working on a similar plan for the central police forces at the instance of home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who felt it was unfair to expect tribals living in India’s poorest and most backward districts to compete with those who had better education.
Maoists have a presence in nearly 200 of the country’s 640 districts. Maoist violence was last year reported from every second district from this list — most of them are in the hotspots of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. But legal experts advised the home ministry against such targeted recruitment, pointing it would violate the constitutional guarantees of equality for jobs. Home ministry officials, however, said the Bengal model circumvents this hurdle by creating a separate class of the constabulary — one notch lower to the police constable.
Central forces, such as the Central Reserve Police Force, do set aside seats for candidates from Maoist-affected districts, but haven’t been able to ensure that tribals —and not the comparatively well-do-do people —get the jobs.
After the initial suspicions that Mamata Banerjee would play into the Maoists’ hands, home ministry officials have also credited the CM for resuming political activities in the Junglemahal area so that Maoists were not able to exploit the political vacuum.