Has the Centre taken its eye off the Naxal threat in the past few months? Senior officials in the intelligence bureau and the ministry of home affairs confirm that home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has not held a thorough review of the security situation in Naxal-hit states after being sworn in as the home minister in August 2012.
While the security situation is regularly reviewed at the level of the home secretary, Shinde himself has only been part of one meeting in the last ten months since he was sworn in as the home minister in August last year.
This is in stark contrast to his predecessor P Chidambaram, who according to a senior MHA official, “obsessed about the micro and macro picture in the Naxal hit states.” While Shinde visited Jharkhand earlier this month to review the ground situation, he is still to visit Chhattisgarh – clearly the epicentre of Naxal activity.
Even when the latest massacre took place in Jagdalpur which nearly wiped out the entire Congress unit, the home minister was missing in action. Shinde, who went to the United States for a review of how America handles homeland security, stayed on for personal reasons after his official engagements ended on May 24.
The closest Shinde has come to interacting with the locals of Chhattisgarh was early this month when a group of about 20 students called on him in his office. Shinde, say officials, advised them against joining the ranks of the Naxals. He promised them that the Centre was coming up with schemes to wean the local population away from the rebels.
The home ministry has an Integration Action Plan as well as a road building project – aimed at the tribals of Naxal states and while Chidambaram continuously reviewed it, Shinde, according to MHA officials is not aware of its details. “Unlike Chidambaram who actively posted good officers in bad places (the worst affected districts) and constantly put pressure on the chief ministers of Naxal-hit states, Shinde is not at home with the ministry," a senior official told HT.
Known for his gaffes and out of turn comments, Shinde in fact asked an official if the security forces had planted a bomb in the abdomen of dead Naxals when it had been widely reported in the media that the rebels were the ones who had planted an improvised explosive device in a dead jawan’s stomach in January in Jharkhand.