The challenge of Left Wing Extremism various also known as Naxalism or Maoist insurgency poses a serious security threat to India reiterated more than once by no less a person than the Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh. One dimension of the problem is the fuzzy numbers on spread of the threat which in turn is leading to the government willingly pouring in resources without much accountability and consequently corruption, a situation which works to the advantage of all stakeholders in the conflict.
Since allotment of central funds are based on the number of districts affected, States have a vested interest in denoting larger spread of the menace than what can be easily met through normal development and law and order. Thus routinely statements as over 200 districts being impacted affecting over one third of the country are made yet there are no hard facts available on the spread of the challenge.
Yes there were over 1000 fatalities in 2009 making it a major threat by international standards. However beyond this it would be evident that over three fourths of the deaths occurred in three states in the country, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Andhra Pradesh one of the worst affected a few years back had 28 fatalities, while Uttar Pradesh 3 and Madhya Pradesh none. 83 districts in nine states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are on the whole impacted as per information provided by the government to an RTI query recently published in a media report.
An overall analysis would reveal that of these states in the Naxal affected list, only 3 Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa and just over 50 out of 200 plus districts may be said to be critically impacted based on the geographical spread and pattern of violence. Add West Bengal where three districts are affected, and this would be the fourth state as casualties here have risen over the past year or so.
The Central government has identified 33 districts for development based on the spread of Naxalism but these are by no means the most security stressed. West Medinipur and Ramgarh in West Bengal and Jharkhand respectively are more violent than Sonebhadra in UP or Balaghat in MP. But the overall bias of the development as well as security seems to be to push resources to the states and therefore empirical foundations are not considered important. For the push model of development and also security modernisation adopted by the Central government, observed evidence is not important, political and 'other' considerations dictate disbursement.
The State governments have also understood the logic and routinely demand heavy sums from the Centre. For instance Chhattisgarh state government has demanded over Rs 4,500 Crore to undertake developmental activities in Naxal-affected districts from the Centre. Jharkhand another critically affected state has been approved a Plan outlay of Rs 9,240 Crore, Rs 240 Crore more than proposed by the state administration for 2010-11 to the Planning Commission. An additional Rs 200 Crore is being provided to the 11 Naxalite affected districts in a State which has chronic governance deficiency and corruption with one of the previous Chief Ministers being accused of swindling the state crores of rupees in mining contracts. Thus while there is a dire security requirement it may not necessarily translate into allotment of additional funds without assessing the actual needs and capability to deliver on the ground.
Mining is another lucrative option in Naxal affected states with Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra having large mining resources but Naxal affected to varying degrees. These areas are homeland of the tribal and the poor in the country with extremely low per capita income. Here the mining lobby is a major stake holder which can influence the government at the cost of the poor. Thus infra structure development suits this lobby with roads providing an opportunity for exploitation of resources without necessarily providing recompense to the marginalized.
Then we have the Maoists, who can smell an opportunity to make money and by conservative estimates 15 to 30 percent of the funds go into their coffers. This has also created the larger debate of whether the Maoists are revolutionaries or terrorists and bandits depriving the people of fair opportunities for development.
The Indian government does not have dearth of resources but inability to deliver has created the phenomenon of Naxalism and since this is prevalent across Central Indian states where development is very low, the Naxals have garnered the opportunity arising from gap in capacity and delivery. Thus a corruption and contractor nexus fed partially by government funding is operating across these areas.
Alas in this battle for the, ‘riches’ what goes to the people is a penny’s worth. But as P Sainath one of India’s leading writers on development writes about droughts could also be applicable to Naxalism, “Everybody loves a good insurgency.”