Eight months after the Centre landed thousands of paramilitary personnel into the dense jungles of central to fight Maoists, the Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared a Rs 800 crore modernisation plan to empower state police forces to stand on its feet and fight back.
The new plan aims to equip nearly 400 police stations in 90 districts of Maoist-affected states with advanced communication and reconnaissance gadgets, better weapons and anti-landmine vehicles.
The Centre will put the CCS decision on the table when chief ministers of seven Naxal-affected states attend the conference on Naxalism convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday.
The home ministry is conscious that the refined anti-Naxal strategy that the CCS had cleared could work only if the states were onboard. The plan requires the states to fund 20 per cent of the project cost. But the money is going to be the easier part.
The more difficult part would be ensuring that the police stations were adequately staffed.
As Home Minister P. Chidambaram emphasised even after the Dantewada massacre in April, the district had a police station which had just two policemen. “When a policeman does not want to go there, how can you expect a teacher or a BDO to go there,” he had lamented.
“There is not only a limit to how many paramilitary personnel can be sent to fight Naxals but their effectiveness; they will always be an external force which will be less effective than a locally-raised force,” explained a ministry official.
This is the lesson, he said, from the ‘much-misunderstood’ Andhra Pradesh success story.
It isn’t that the Centre hasn’t helped states modernise. But the point, officials suggested, was that if there were about 400 police stations — out of a total of 14,000 nationwide — where Naxal violence was reported, one way to ramp up their capacity was to go for a targeted approach.
Public debate on action plan starts
The Centre’s Rs 13,000 crore action plan for 34 Naxal-affected districts is likely to include local civil society groups in monitoring process for better implementation.
“This is one of our suggestion,” said plan panel member Mihir Shah, after holding first set of consultation with civil society groups working in the Naxal areas.
Suggestions emerging from Monday’s meeting, first public consultation on the action plan, would be discussed with deputy chairperson of planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and other members on Tuesday.
At the last internal meeting, the some panel members refused to agree to the plan prepared by bureaucrats in the commission stating it was not “inclusive” in nature. It had sought money as demanded by district collectors for carrying out developmental work.
HTC, New Delhi