As one chief minister stayed away and another made a show of his differences with the Centre’s anti-Naxal strategy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a meeting of chief ministers from six Naxal-affected states on Wednesday not to let inter-personal issues stand in the way of forging a united front to tackle this grave internal security problem.
“We must be — and also appear to be — united and one in our resolve, and in execution of our strategies,” Singh told the conference that later unanimously endorsed eight home ministry proposals.
<b1>The proposals, already cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, aim to raise the bar for central assistance including providing funds for upgrading hundreds of police stations, and to finalise an integrated action plan to push the developmental agenda there.
The prime minister’s advice came in the backdrop of the West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya staying away from the conference (sending his health minister instead) and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar distancing himself from the security component of the two-pronged approach the Centre suggested.
Singh also advised the chief ministers to show tribals a different face of the administration, one that was sensitive and caring of their needs.
In his opening remarks, Home Minister P Chidambaram underscored the gravity of the challenge posed by left wing extremism. There have been 1,103 incidents of Naxal violence this year, he said, that, apart from the casualties among security men, killed 345 civilians.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who has skipped such earlier meetings on anti-naxal strategies, emphasised that the anti-Naxal strategy focused too much on security. Though his prepared speech was widely circulated, he did not read it out. Instead he complained the central agencies had rushed district authorities into drawing up the integrated action plans overnight, without taking political inputs.
Asked about Kumar’s grouse, Chidambaram said he had earlier invited the CM for a discussion on this subject. “That discussion is still pending,” the home minister said.