NEW DELHI: Naxals could infiltrate Chhattisgarh because of the trust deficit between the authorities and tribal population, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said on Sunday, noting that bridging the gap was the biggest challenge his government faced after assuming office.
Speaking on 'Changing Chhattisgarh under New Leadership' at an event here, Baghel said that earlier no one talked to the tribal population to know about their suffering.
They responded to violence by violence and that resulted in widening the gap between the authorities and the tribal population, he said.
"Naxalism is not a problem of just law and order. Naxals could infiltrate Chhattisgarh because of the trust deficit between the authorities and the tribals," he said, noting that it was the biggest challenge his government had to deal with after assuming office.
"When I said I would talk to the victims of Naxalism, it was said I have Leftist mindset," he said.
He said he started winning the trust of the tribal population by returning their land that was taken over by previous governments.
"They realised that it was the first time that the government returned them their land. Next, I waived their loans," he said.
Baghel also raised the issue of stray cattle menace in Chhattisgarh.
"Cows in the rest of the world give milk but in India they do the work of garnering votes as well. The animal which used to form our economic backbone now has become a menace," Baghel said, noting that the people in the state do not want to rear cows.
"You will get beaten up if you try to sell or buy cows due to which people leave them in open. Farmers have lost so much crops because of that," he said.
He said that to counter the issue, his government has kept 3-5 acres of land only for stray cattle in different areas.
"There we tell farmers to put their extra straw that they would otherwise be burnt so that the environment is not polluted and the cattle get their food too," he said.
Calling malnutrition a bigger threat to Chhattisgarh than Naxalism, Baghel said it is a battle that they all are fighting.
"We started camps in some of the worst Naxal-infested areas of Dantewada and Bastar and gave hot, cooked meal to children and women there. Success of the programme was visible and now we are expanding it," he said.
He further said that out of 124 panchayats in the state, 109 now have this programme.
Baghel rued that despite being a resource-rich state there are no "value-addition" to the products produced by the state.
"It is not our crime that we are protecting the forest. It is not a crime to supply oxygen to the rest of the country, then why is there no value addition to the products produced by us," he said.
"Now we are focussing on establishing small businesses that would give value addition to the tribals on their products," he added.