The proposition below attempts to address the root cause of the alienation of tribal communities, using a self funding and sustainable model to build up these communities by building infrastructure, generating employment, establishing education and healthcare programs and thereby reversing the condition of neglect and thus the influence of anti-state elements.
It is widely accepted that the root cause of the problem is enshrined in the long term neglect of these areas, with the consequential social injustice leading to alienation of the locals from the state apparatus. Matters been made worse by the exploitation of these rich mineral belts by commercial interests who have little regard for local communities who have lived there for generations and now see their place of abode being usurped, families being made homeless, suffer widespread human rights abuse at the hand of the upper class, and have no recourse to justice or compensation. The result is an inevitable growing sympathy towards Maoists philosophy and the consequence is what we witness today.
How can this situation be reversed? How can the confidence of the people be won by the state? How can law and order be restored? This is the key dilemma to be addressed.
Developmental Gap & Need For Funding
Years of neglect means these areas are lacking roads, employment, schools, healthcare, civic administration, law enforcement and judicial delivery.
Development of and administration of these areas is without question a state subject, but these communities have been let down by the very same administration which should have looked after them. Today the tribals simply do not trust the state governments to help them. The discontent and the Naxal/ Maoists influence is spread across at least 10 states and over 500 districts. The States where trouble is brewing are: Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and spreading.
The Centre therefore needs to get involved to engineer a solution to address the root causes and restore law and order, without further alienation.
Bridging the development gap, setting up a security and administration apparatus, building infrastructure (roads, communication) and creating employment all require large amount of funding and most of these programs are capital intensive. State governments cannot be reasonably expected to find such funds without Central intervention.
Generation of Funds
The first objective therefore should be to generate funds for funding of the various programs. I propose this is done by putting up a levy on all minerals. Mining firms already paying a levy, although this goes to state sponsored mafia, often led by elected representatives. The Centre needs to step in to extract a ‘central tribal area development levy’. A rough estimate of the funds which can result:
There is estimated to be above 400 million tonnes of coal mined in these areas. A Rs1000/ ton levy will generate Rs 40,000 crores for the public purse!
There is estimated to be about 100 million tonnes of iron ore available. Ever since China raised its demand for iron ore the producers export price has been between 4000/ton to 7,000/ ton and this has created huge margins for the miner. Again a Rs1000/ ton levy should be safely absorbed and this will generate at least Rs 5000 crores.
The above two mineral examples will alone generate a huge amount of developmental revenue, which should be deployed for infrastructure development. A similar formula can be worked out for other minerals present in the area (as well as timber). How much levy is imposed on these should depend on what the market can absorb.
These are funds which government seems to be deliberately losing, but no doubt this money is being stashed away illegally and fuelling the black economy.
Deployment of Funds
It is crucial that funds generated be used on programs which directly target the uplifting of local communities and not elsewhere since these communities have been let down for far too long. Local projects should have the objective of on-going long term benefits and if managed well should lead to a reversal of the alienation being witnessed. The disbursement of funds should be centrally controlled and projects centrally monitored by a team of auditors which should include some social activists, who have the confidence of the locals.
The first priority should be to launch a road building program to make the areas accessible and through this also start employment of, and engaging of locals. Roads are also essential for the flow of security and developmental personnel.
The second equally important objective should be to ensure that rather than ship out the minerals, industry should be encouraged to come up in the area to convert raw mineral into steel and other products, along with ancillary industry, near the source of the raw material. Once the locals ‘buy’ into the strategy the area should become safe for such activity. Such a strategy will provide long term employment in the area. Moreover it does not make sense to have some other country benefit from our natural resources, which after all are finite in quantity and should be utilised to the hilt before they dry up.
The third objective should be to utilise the funds generated from local resources to build up civil administrative structure, security and law enforcement apparatus on a massive scale to contain further insurgency and protect and secure the area whilst the development is progressed.
Fourth and very important objective is to utilise India’s mineral resources for the direct and long term benefit of the Nation.
Security & Law & Order
For securing these areas at this juncture requires a massive deployment of well trained and well equipped personnel, backed up by solid grass roots intelligence. The security personnel should not walk into traps each time and intelligence should be one step ahead of the insurgents to prevent a further attack before it is launched. A variety of modes of intelligence gathering will need to be deployed to enable the security agencies to get on top of the situation and be in control rather than be reactive and defensive.
It is not wise to go in with an overwhelming force of army and air force to attack whole communities to root out a few trouble makers. You cannot go and attack citizens of India who have for no fault of their own got caught up in the mess due to wholesale exploitation over so many years. It is neither wise to arm locals (eg Selva Judum) to create a local indiscriminate force to act against innocents. It is wiser to starve the flow of weapons and ‘outsiders’ into the area, win the confidence of locals through grass roots social activity, identify known anti-state elements and build intelligence on them. Act with patience and move with stealth when you are sure of the target.
It is proposed that the security build up should involve local residents and after training making them feel they are in control of their own security. Involving local population will fruitfully engage them, as well as provide much needed employment and hopefully they will feel it is their program, designed to benefit them, and they should be encouraged to accept ownership of the program. Inclusion of all stakeholders is always essential for transition to a trusting and friendly community. Again this program of recruiting, training and equipping of law enforcement personnel should be funded from the central levy.
The security personnel will need to be properly trained, well paid, and well equipped and strictly controlled to ensure they are discipline and do not act indiscriminately against the local population like vigilantes. Recruitment will need to be done wisely with proper screening. Management of these resources will need to be on the same lines as Services to safeguard against risks of infiltration.
The mining mafia, who have contributed immensely to the problem, will need to be checked immediately. They should be seen as a serious law and order problem and it should not be left to local politicians to deal with this. Existing mining licences (incl. those for Uranium minerals etc) should be revisited to ensure they are properly structured, have enforceable terms and are in the national interest. There are many large professionally managed miners operating in the area and they should be supported. However the terms of business and contract supervision must ensure national interest and no exploitation of locals.
Local politician helping or shielding the mining barons guilty of wrong doing should be dealt with summarily.
Comprehensive Development with social audit
Using these funds, looking beyond the roads and security set up, a number of programs will need to be devised and launched with the objective of long term benefit to the community. It should be realised that the minerals have a finite volume, so the revenue generated needs to be wisely utilised with the aim of building up long term employment/ education/ health capacity in the region, before this valuable resource dries up.
There should be a cost benefit analysis for all programs taken up, proper on-going audit of the program and fund utilisation by a team of independent auditors.
A team of local elders and influential persons should be built up to act as patrons for each program proposed, to take ownership, to monitor the progress, and audit effective deployment of resources.
All this is an essential part of the confidence building measure for neglected citizens of the area.
The basic theme behind the ideas being that:
- Self funding programs should be initiated, with the aim to building long term and on-going benefits for the inhabitants of the region.
- There is a pressing need to win the confidence of the local in the state machinery through real benefits.
- There is a need to set up civil administration, security and development program on massive scale to crack the problem decisively and prevent further growth of the Naxal influence.
Once the benefits are seen to roll out, there should be depreciating sympathy for Naxal/ Maoist cause in the area – after all such philosophies only gain sympathy where people perceive to have been neglected, are suffering and have little recourse to justice, health, employment, are not engaged in productive activities and have time on their hands for the anti-state elements .
Ceng, MBCS, CITP
2 Ishwar Nagar (east), ND 110065