Five revenue circles in Gadchiroli district are all set to start a unique experiment to boost development in the Maoist heartland.
By the end of this month, all government offices in these revenue circles will be shifted to the newly built secure campuses, called development hubs, which are likely to streamline the scrambled administrative apparatus in the district.
“We have already started shifting our offices in the five circles to the hubs. After power connections are restored by the end of this month, the hubs will be fully occupied. In the first week of July, the offices will become functional,” Gadchiroli district collector SR Naik said.
For a while now, the symbolic presence, or the total absence in most of the cases, of the administrative machinery in major parts of the tribal-dominated district on account of insurgency has left much to be desired in terms of implementation of government programmes. The resultant backwardness has been exploited by the ultras to their advantage to propagate the state’s failure in addressing the deprivation.
Scant or no attendance in government offices, including talati offices, primary health centres and even post offices, is a regular feature in the interiors. That is not without reason. Over the years, government premises and properties have been repeatedly targeted by Maoists, causing fear among officials. A posting in Gadchiroli is often considered as punishment by government servants, who make every effort to avoid it. Also, the lack of security has been used as a pretext to refuse postings on many occasions.
In its report to the state government in 2009, the anti-Naxal operation (ANO) wing of the Maharashtra police had suggested the insurgency problem could not be fought on the point of barrel alone. Restoration of law and order in the district should be backed by initiation of developmental projects that would address the larger problem of economic backwardness of the tribals.
The government, after much deliberation, came out with an ambitious scheme in 2010 to open 41 development hubs — townships where all government offices in the revenue circles will be concentrated. The townships will have staff quarters and facilities required by their families. The self-contained townships will have adequate security presence. Rs100 crore has already been spent on the project.
Additional director general of police (ADGP), special operations (SPOPs), Bipin Bihari said five such hubs were completed early this year, while 15 more will be ready in the next couple of months. Work on 21 more is underway, he added.
“Enough security will be provided to the hubs so that the government offices could operate peacefully,” Bihari said adding that baring 7 which are close to the district headquarters, the rest of the hubs are in the core (Naxal dominated) areas. “Majority of the hubs are close to security posts and hence are safe,” he said.
“Security can provide a platform to function. But it is not a solution to the problem,” said a top ANO official, adding, “When the hubs become functional, it will at least dispel the feeling of absence of government.”
Naik said most of the five hubs have quarters for the staff and their family. “In case of shortage, we will make housing arrangements in the district HQs,” he added.
Former director general, special ops, Jayant Umranikar, said setting up secure complexes to facilitate the smooth functioning of administration in insurgency affected areas is a time-tested state initiative. The reaffirmation of government writ in troubled territories is done through the principle of “Clear, hold and occupy,” he said. “I am sure this experiment will be successful in winning back the lost tracts,” he said.