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Open letter to the home minister

india Updated: Aug 24, 2010 23:38 IST

Dear Shri Chidambaram,

The nation owes you a debt of gratitude for having understood the gravity of the Maoist problem and devising a workable strategy to counter what the prime minister has repeatedly described as the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.

The people of the country had great expectations. However, it would appear that the strategy to combat the Maoist threat is not producing the desired results — at least certainly not at the pace or with the success people expected it to. Having studied this movement from its inception, I would take the liberty of analysing the reasons why the strategy is not working:

There is no overall strategic plan involving the worst affected states. Every state is implementing the anti-Maoist campaign as per its own appreciation of the ground situation. It is a compartmentalised approach — not an integrated one.
Tactically, the forces need to re-orient their operational plans. The Maoists are waging an irregular war. Our response to the threat has been traditional. An unconventional conflict requires an unconventional response. Placing battalions of paramilitary forces at the disposal of state governments may look impressive. But it alone won’t produce expected results.
Territorial domination is essential, but it should not be the objective. The aim should be to Win the Hearts And Minds (WHAM) of the people. The security forces should be encouraged to undertake medical relief among the tribals, organise sports/games for the youth and similar civic actions to project a friendly image.
The paramilitary forces that have been deployed against the Maoists have developed a defensive mindset. Leadership is essentially to be blamed for this. It is a great pity that officers with no flair for operations are commanding these formations.
The discordant voices within the UPA government have contributed in no small measure to weaken the thrust against the Maoists. Mamata Banerjee has her own opinion on the subject. Digvijay Singh has been pontificating even though he, as a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, cannot get away from the responsibility for the maladministration in Bastar.
Some chief ministers, particularly of Bihar, have refused to fall in line. There are sharp deviations in the approach to tackle the Maoist threat in different states. There is no orchestrated campaign.
The bureaucracy is not contributing its bit. In situations like this, it finds it convenient to take the plea that it is a law and order problem, which has to be dealt with by the security forces. It must be held accountable for its performance or otherwise in the Maoist affected areas. If lack of development is a major factor contributing to anger and frustration among the poor people then bureaucracy, more than any other wing of the government, is responsible for the malaise.
The police holds the key. We have seen that in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura. Its capabilities must be substantially augmented in terms of manpower, resources, equipment and training. Police reforms, unfortunately, continue to be on the backburner. The Centre must put pressure on the states to implement the Supreme Court’s directions.
The government will have to crack the whip on corrupt elements sabotaging the implementation of flagship schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), Forest Rights Act and other development projects. The cancer of corruption may upset not only the plan to combat the Maoists — it may, in fact, compromise the entire spectrum of internal and external security.
You have taken too much on yourself. There are officers in the country who have distinguished themselves in
counter-insurgency operations. It may be a good idea to have an advisory board of such officers to assist the
home ministry.

With regards,
Prakash Singh
Former Director General
Border Security Force

The views expressed by the author are personal