The lessons and next steps
What Chandrababu Naidu perfected as the new police methodology to tackle and root out the armed Maoist groupings, this has been exceeded in far greater measure and significance by his successor, the Late YS Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) in his epochal shifting of the direction of State spending towards the Rural Sector, creation of additional irrigation potential (Jalayagnam Scheme), and several Poverty Alleviation Programmes never before seen in India since Independence.
The total allocations for rural sector activities are double that of for all the urban sector - Infrastructure Development, and industrial promotion activities combined. This approach had not only brought rich political dividends, but also has knocked the winds out of all Maoist and Naxalite 'ground level organizers' even in the most remote hamlets.
The popular saying goes that though the roads in Andhra Pradesh may still be full of potholes, and the urban areas perhaps the dirtiest, but in the rural areas there is not a single member of a poor household who has not benefited from at least three of the following freebies - viz seven hours of assured and free electricity for agricultural activity, free low cost house, 25 kg of heavily subsidised rice for each household, Very Low Cost (and all encompassing) Health Insurance Scheme (Arogyasri), Reimbursement of Higher Education Fees for low income families, and anyone type of Social Welfare Pension for the Aged or Destitute.
YSR never gave the least opportunity or space to his political detractors to exploit any popular resentment, and he was always found touring and checking the progress of development activities in all the districts of this vast State.
Tackling the long-standing and burning issue of armed Maoist violence and unquestioned domination of the vital raw materials producing regions of the country has become an urgent national issue which can no longer be procrastinated or wished away.
The Maoists have cleverly played upon the sentiments and decades of developmental neglect experienced by the poor people in remote regions, to build up a strong base of sympathizers, dedicated over-ground workers, and most significantly - armed Dalams consisting of battle hardened cadres who have already tasted success and have no fear of the Security Forces.
They can now converge into Battalion or Brigade sized groupings at their time and place of choosing. With each passing day the Police Forces of the affected States grow more limp and hold the Maoists in greater dread. The Maoists are clearly winning the battle of the mind and they only have to wait to increase in strength. At this rate the Maoist problem will soon start pulling down the country's favourable GDP growth rate by at least one to two per cent.
It is true that law and order is a State subject, but the Centre cannot wash its hand away, especially in areas where there is no law and order left and the affected States are asking for help. Anti-Maoist operations cannot be treated like the hurried and non-organic additional deployment of Paramilitary Forces during election time.
It is no point assigning some additional number of PMF Companies collected from different Units from many parts of the country, to be placed at the disposal of the district administration for short periods. The district police set up have neither the competence nor the required focus and skills to carry out full fledged anti-insurgency operations at their level.
What is essentially required is to work out the 'CI Grid deployment' based on JOBs, and the State Police/Central PMF Special DIG HQs should be made in charge of operations, as had been done in Andhra Pradesh. To ensure accountability, coordination, and willing cooperation of all the available Forces, there is the dire need to set up a single empowered DG level HQ of the Central PMF to coordinate with the respective State Police HQs.
There should be a method worked out so that the deployment of the Central Home Ministry Forces should not last more than a period of two years, during which time the State Police Forces must get sufficiently built up and trained on the Greyhounds pattern, to relieve them permanently.
This implies that the deployment pattern of the Central PMFs has to change every year, so that the correct Forces differential can be created in the specified areas. The PMFs have the obvious disadvantage of not knowing the local language and customs. Therefore, adequate local State police or home guards should be attached to them.
The Maoist menace can surely be defeated by adopting a pan-India activist and sustained developmental approach, piecemeal and sporadic campaigns will surely fail miserably.
Image: Former Andhra DGP Swarnajeet Sen (R) inspects one of a haul of 600 missiles on display at a press conference in Hyderabad, 08 September 2006, after their seizure from a transport company in the south-eastern state. The 600 rockets were meant for use by Maoist guerillas who were previously known to use crude arms, police said. (Photograph copyright AFP)
Col JK Achuthan is a counter-insurgency expert. Courtesy Indian Defence Review