As the nation continues to quarrel over how the State should act to stop Maoist violence, there are actions that need to be taken even as that debate rumbles on. First is the issue of bringing the State into areas where it does not, for all purposes, exist. These may or may not be regions now under the sway of Communist Party of India (Maoist) guerrillas and inhabited by their willing or unwilling ‘citizenry’.
But these swathes of Indian territory have populations that are desperately poor, resources-deprived and without democratic power, to the point that these Indians don’t know that there may be more to life in 21st century India than survival.
Let the State, in its avatars of state and central governments, go into these places on the map and tend to these people now on a war footing. If not only to make up for lost time, such a multi-pronged ‘rescue operation’ will also send out a quick and effective signal to all those disaffected with the basic functionings of India’s democracy — and this includes non-violent discontents too — that the State is awake and serious about converting constitutional ‘good vibrations’ of providing universal welfare to flesh’n’blood reality.
There is nothing embarrassing about an aspirational global power utilising all that it takes to eradicate poverty from within its own jurisdiction. If such a massive operation is beyond our political-administrative capabilities — and it certainly seems that it can do with all the help it can get — then let non-governmental forces, including the army, also be brought in to implement this task.
After all, they are brought out of their offices and barracks for more recognised forms of disaster-management. This may sound dramatic, but high drama could be the right impetus to restart an abandoned project. Not all these regions are under the thrall of the CPI (Maoist). So to wait for reinforcements and protection to make visible and effective entries into many places requiring food, healthcare and water is not necessary everywhere.
Indeed, if there is any statutory message that needs to be sent out to India’s desperately poor living in the outer reaches of the country’s nationhood, it is that immediate aid is far easier to provide in places free of people waging a war against the State and its agents.
Setting up institutions of governance and administration, of course, will need longer time. But if fear and anger against those using poverty as an ideological tool of violence doesn’t stir the State to rescue our ‘most’ dispossessed, surely national self-esteem can. Before a structure of systemic welfare can be erected, guarded and kept running permanently, short-time, immediate solace should be provided. And it would be such a relief to see the Indian State providing succour to the needy not because of an existential threat but because it has finally figured out that it’s the right thing to do.