As yet another Maoist bandh began in Orissa and parts of West Bengal on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted there had been a “systemic failure” in ensuring the progress of tribals.
But he added that tribals’ problems could not be addressed by the “cult of violence” of “those who claim to speak for the tribals”, meaning Maoists.
Singh was addressing a conference of chief ministers and tribal affairs ministers on a day when Maoists torched an Essar guesthouse in Orissa’s Malkangiri and killed four persons in Chhattisgarh to mark the beginning of the two-day bandh.
Maoists have a presence in 233 districts of the country and justify violence as a reaction to the exploitation of tribals by forces supported by the state. The government is planning a major push to win back land under their control.
“The alienation built over decades is taking a dangerous turn,” said Singh. “There has been systemic failure in giving tribals a stake in modern economic processes. The systematic exploitation of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated.”
“But no sustained activity is possible under the shadow of gun,” he added. “Nor have those who claim to speak for tribals offered an alternate economic or social path that is viable.”
The UPA’s Maoist policy involves establishing the writ of the administration and following it up with development.