NEW DELHI: The Modi Government has come up with a new way to counter Maoist insurgencies in the country. It has decided to to change the ecological and social landscape of Left-wing extremist (LWE) states by developing rubber plantations there.
The scheme, titled ‘Special Drive Rubber Plantation Development Scheme for Left Wing Extreme Affected States, was mooted by the Home Ministry and the PMO has asked the Ministry of Commerce to start working on it. The Commerce Ministry has, in turn, asked the Rubber Board to come up with a blueprint at the earliest.
“It is an out-of-the-box idea. It will ensure inclusive development in Naxal-affected region,” a government source told Express.
The draft of the scheme explains the “strategic importance of rubber” to counter Maoist extremism. Citing the example of Tripura, which was once affected by extremists, the draft note says that a permanent source of income had helped in quelling insurgency there. The LWE states include Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The Home Ministry has assured all helps to the Rubber Board in choosing plots and ensuring protection.
The draft says introduction of rubber-planting activity in Maoist-ridden areas would help improve the rural economy, provide more employment and ensure better infrastructure.
“The root cause of naxalism is poverty and deprivation. Rubber plantations will change the entire socio-economic landscape of these regions. Rubber may achieve what thousands of bullets cannot,” a government source said.
This shift, however, is bad news for Kerala which accounts for nearly 84 per cent of rubber production in India, with even the head office of the Rubber Board being located there in Kottayam.
The shift to LWE states will be blow to the state’s rubber lobby, which is powerful enough to make or break the state government. As a result, some see politics in the Centre’s plans.
“Rubber planters in Kerala are considered as traditional supporters of the Congress. That is why the the BJP government is trying to shift the focus,” said a planter who did not wanted to be identified.
He insisted that the climate of the state was more suitable for rubber than anywhere else.
This is something scientists at the Rubber Board also agree on. But they say that cultivation costs in the non-traditional areas will be much lower than in Kerala.