Rebels feed on lax guardians

Ranchi, Jan. 29: Jharkhand, tailing in most development indices, has wrested the crown of the state with the highest rebel-sponsored fatalities in India from Chhattisgarh in 2012, according to a latest Union home ministry report.

Of the 488 casualties across India in the year that went by, 169 or 34.63 per cent were from Jharkhand, the highest among all rebel-hit states. The absolute certainty of numbers ' without political bias or compulsion ' puts the magnitude of India's internal enemy in Jharkhand in perspective before governor's adviser and ex-CRPF boss K. Vijay Kumar meets the police brass tomorrow.

If one compares home ministry reports of 2011 and 2012, it shows a drop in the percentage of Naxalite-sponsored killings ' 31 per cent in India and 14 per cent in Jharkhand ' a seemingly heartening figure for the state too. But a closer look reveals the dark side. In 2011, of the 710 people, both security personnel and civilians, killed in rebel violence, 198 were from Jharkhand. So, if in 2011, the state had cornered a 27.88 per cent share of nationwide casualty figures, it widened to 34.63 per cent in 2012.

What makes Jharkhand citizens ' 133 killed in 2012 compared to 63 in Chhattisgarh ' and security forces a growing fodder for Maoists is a subject for deliberation for Kumar and security strategists.

Kumar, who has frequented Jharkhand during his tenure as CRPF chief, will in his first meeting as the governor's adviser tomorrow, discuss concerns of Naxalism, law and order and development.

Jharkhand had a bad start in January with the toll of Latehar killings climbing to 15. But the answers to this growing insurgency and its impact are not too far to seek when one compares Jharkhand's political track record with rebel-hit Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Development economists and state officials relate successive weak governments, political instability and the resultant slow or interrupted development to Maoist clout.

S.N. Pradhan, IG (operations), admitted that Jharkhand's political instability was a major retardant. "In Odisha and Chhattisgarh, development work is telling. Villagers feel they will be better off if they side with the government and not rebels," he said.

But he pointed out how Naxalism in Jharkhand was more challenging.

"Around 56 per cent of the casualties here have been caused by splinter groups, not CPI(Maoist). We have rebel groups such as People's Liberation Front of India, Tritiya Prastuti Committee and the like that are absent elsewhere," he said.

Grassroots empowerment measures in the state such as jan adalats too have decreased from 54 in 2011 to 23 in 2012.

The only silver lining in the Union home ministry report is that the number of rebel training camps has reduced by half. In 2011, there were 24 camps, which whittled down to 12 in 2012.

Though joint operations of the CRPF and state police are on and development has picked up pace in 'cleansed' Saranda due to the intervention of Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, much more needs to be done.

Now, all eyes are on Saryu Action Plan in Latehar district, also a Ramesh initiative.

But central intervention can only be up to a certain point, feels Jharkhand's intelligentsia, ruing the lack of a strong state government at the helm.

Ramesh Sharan, Ranchi University economics professor, added another dimension to weak governance.

"The cash-starved state bleeds around Rs 4,000 crore in revenue every year according to the CAG report. Simple things such as toll collection from heavy vehicles crossing our borders are often not implemented due to lax governance. If we collected revenue, we could have ploughed it back for development in rebel-hit areas," he added.

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