RANCHI: As it comes to grips with the Maoist menace in Jharkhand, the Raghubar Das government is aiming to address the lack of development in the rural parts of the state -- where years of left-wing extremism has hampered the building of roads and bridges -- by involving security personnel in infrastructure creation.
As many as 17 districts of the state are eligible to receive funds under Additional Central Assistance, but at least four districts have fallen well short of the target of realising the Rs 30 crore given to each of them for the 2013/14 fiscal, government documents show. The shortcoming is, for the most part, attributed to the presence of Red ultras.
"The progress under this (ACA) yojana was unsatisfactory during 2013/14," said letters issued to the deputy commissioners of the four districts on August 1, 2014, by a senior official in the erstwhile Hemant Soren government with the directive that there should not be a "repeat" of the performance.
The new BJP government led by Raghubar Das has now made it clear during the one month it has completed in office that development alone can eliminate Naxalism and that security personnel will be involved in carrying out such work in the Naxal-affected areas.
"It's a good thing to involve security forces in development as Naxalites don't want construction of roads and bridges as it will enable the administration reach remote areas," said Radhakrishna Kishore, the BJP MLA from Chhatarpur constituency, which lies in the Maoist-affected Palamau district.
"The Naxalites also demand a cut (extortion money) on such schemes... affecting the quality of work," he added even as he called for hardcore Naxalites to be dealt with sternly.
Another BJP MLA, Bimla Pradhan, said, "In my Simdega constituency, there is no industry or mineral resources, so people depend upon agriculture.
"(But) lack of permanent irrigation facilities for taking up agriculture means unemployed youths are prone to getting misguided. Hence, the ACA funds should be increased and more developmental work should be done."
However, the opposition JMM MLA Kunal Sarangi claimed that the state government was "over-simplifying the complex problem of Naxalism" by its decision to involve security personnel in developmental work.
"Sometimes a person joins extremism on personal or other grounds. So, the government should take people into confidenceby fulfilling its promises, and it should separate development work from tackling Naxalism. Speed up the delivery mechanism," Sarangi stressed.
Former minister and sitting Naujawan Sangharsh Morcha MLA Bhanu Pratap Sahi attributed the rise of Naxalism, since the days when Jharkhand was still a part of Bihar, to land disputes which had seen powerful people "forcibly grab" the land of the poor.
"Land dispute is the single biggest reason for the growth of Naxalism since the days of undivided Bihar. The 'dabang' (powerful peopel) captured land... now the government should implement the land survey which was done in the late 1970s and early 1980s so that the landless can get and can till their own land," Sahi said.
He welcomed the government's plan to involve security personnel in infrastructure building saying that it would help in the construction of bridges which, among other things, could see Garhwa district getting linked with Chhattisgarh in a development that would boost trade.
"But the state government should implement everything that it has been announcing for the past one month," said Sahi, whose Bhawanathpur seat is in Garhwa district.
When Jharkhand was created on November 15, 2000, only three or four districts had been Maoist-affected. Now, 21 of the 24 districts have been declared Naxal-affected and police records show 19 Maoist outfits rearing their heads across the state.
As per a decision of the previous UPA government at the Centre in 2006 for tackling the Maoist insurgency in a holistic manner, the first Integrated Action Plan (IAP) was put in place and, later, ACA funds were earmarked for the Maoist-affected states of Chhattishgarh, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.
Altogether 82 districts had been brought under the IAP for select tribal and backward districts before the provision changed to ACA for LWE-affected districts for the remaining years of 12th Five-Year Plan, said a senior official.
"The main focus is health and education, besides construction of roads and bridges in the naxal-affected areas. Rs 30 crore for every financial year is released in three instalments under ACA on the basis of utilization certificates," the official said.
District-level committees comprising the Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police and Divisional Forest Officer are responsible for implementation of the schemes under ACA, the official added.