The traditional response of the state to the Naxal issue has been quite one-sided, relying on a ‘security’ approach – taking Naxalism as something than could be tackled through a larger and better equipped security machinery. But this approach fails to address the root cause of the Naxalism issue.
As the limits of this approach are becoming obvious, a new mindset is beginning to define the government’s approach. This has three distinct pillars – security, development and political mobilisation.
Security Pillar - with greater focus, more resources, better-equipped security forces and better coordination between the centre and the states, we are beginning to see a reduction in incidence of extreme left-wing violence. Some so-called ‘liberated’ zones like Saranda in Jharkhand have also been re-captured from the Naxals. We need greater representation of local people in the police and paramilitary forces; this is essential to bridge the trust deficit. Second, we need a better understanding of local social and tribal networks and need to make the local tribal leadership our allies. This goes beyond the current approach of treating some tribals as ‘informers’– it will require a proactive effort to engage with local communities, and proper sensitization and training of the security forces.
Development pillar - Ensuring that basic infrastructure and public services – roads,functioning health centres and schools,etc. – reach deep into these areas. Just like in the police, we have to ensure greater participation of local human resources – the local administration must be given the flexibility to hire locals to deliver public services. the administration must work closely with local NGOs and Community Based Organisationa (CBOs), many of whom are doing stellar work in adverse conditions for several decades, and have well-developed relationships of trust with local communities. Sustainable livelihood opportunities for tribals need to be expanded. Tribals must be given access to minor forest produce, especially bamboo, a hugely lucrative commodity.
Political pillar - creating conditions for political engagement, bringing locals into the political mainstream as partners and decision-makers. Political parties have an important role here – they must conduct local membership drives and provide opportunities to local leadership in state politics. The recent push to conduct elections to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in many of these areas is a step in the right direction, but many states like Jharkhand have a long way to go. Political engagement also requires that tribals have more secure property rights and a greater say in local decisions, especially those relating to their land and livelihoods. A number of recent legislations have made a start – Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) and the Forest Right Act for example. The proposed Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Bill, 2011, will also ensure a greater role for local communities in land-related decisions, especially in Schedule V and VI areas.