Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram came. He saw. He tried to conquer, promising development and asking locals to resist the Maoists.
“We said it was not possible for us. If so many heavily-armed joint forces personnel couldn’t resist them, how can we?” asked a villager after an unplanned interaction with Chidambaram.
Taking a detour form his highly secured itinerary at Lalgarh, 160 km from Kolkata, the Union home minister enquired from the locals about their problems on Sunday.
“I told villagers not to extend moral and material support to the Maoists. It’s wrong to say that the villagers are with them. Very few people are with the Maoists,” Chidambaram said.
Chidambaram, who has described the Maoists as India’s biggest threat to internal security, was on a visit to the Maoist-dominated tribal hamlet in West Midnapore on Sunday, met with senior officials from the state police and the central forces at Lalgarh police station.
After the meeting, which lasted around an hour, the minister came out of his security cordon to talk to villagers, standing on the other side of the police station.
When he enquired about local problems, the villagers complained about lack of power and proper healthcare services. “We didn’t have any power supply till the police station fortified itself. We have been hooking power from their line,” said Heera Singha Roy.
Mithu Singha Roy from the same family complained of poor healthcare. She told Chidambaram that people have to travel more than a kilometre to reach the nearest primary health centre.
“I told him that the health centre mostly keeps pain killers. Minister saheb said that he will look into the matter,” she said after an unexpected chat with Chidambaram.
Saraswati Das, 18, complained that due to tension and trouble in the area, she could not take her higher secondary exams, except for the English and Bengali papers.
An elderly woman, not willing to be named, said it was only because of the present crisis at Lalgarh that locals could see “such a senior minister”.
Chidambaram assured them that he would look into their grievances and promised better schools, healthcare services and infrastructure.
“Naxals can’t provide development. If the state government is not effective, we can make it effective,” said the Union home minister before boarding a helicopter on his way back.