In a significant move which shows shrinking influence of left-wing extremists, the government has removed 44 districts from the list of 126 Naxalism-hit areas. However, 8 new districts, 3 of which are in Kerala, have been added as a ‘pre-emptive’ measure. According to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the geographical spread of left-wing extremist violence has shrunk significantly in the last four years due to a multi-furcated strategy.
“There is no influence or negligible presence of LWE in 44 districts and most of the Naxal violence is confined now only to 30 worst-affected districts,” he said. Earlier, we had reported how the revamped counterinsurgency plans have reduced Maoist influence to just 58 districts.
Gauba said significant features of the anti-Naxal policy were zero tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities so that benefits of new roads, bridges, telephone towers reach the poor and the vulnerable in the affected areas.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had categorised 106 districts in 10 states as LWE-affected districts. These districts are covered under the security-related expenditure (SRE) scheme for the purpose of indemnification of security-related expenditure like transportation, communication, the hiring of vehicles, stipend to surrendered Maoists, construction of infrastructure for forces etc.
This grouping provided the basis for focused distribution of resources – both security and development related.
The MHA has recently undertaken a comprehensive exercise in consultation with the states to review the affected districts in order to ensure that deployment of forces and resources is in sync with the changed ground reality.
According to reports, 44 districts have been excluded and 8 new districts have been added to the list of SRE districts as a presumptive step to check any attempts by Maoists to enhance the area of influence. Hence, taking the total number of SRE districts now to 90, another official said.
Similarly, the number of worst LWE-hit districts has also come down to 30 from 35. Incidents of violence have seen a 20 percent decline with a 34 percent reduction in related deaths in 2017 as compared to 2013, the official reportedly said. Among the 90 districts, 32 districts have reported no violence in last few years while only 58 districts have reported violence in 2017.
In order to counter Maoist efforts to expand their prominence in tribal areas at the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, three districts of Kerala have been included in the list of SRE districts, though the fact remains that there is no violence in the new districts and the move is presumptive.
The central government is also providing Rs 1,000 crore as 100 percent grant to 35 LWE-affected districts under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP). The utilisation of the fund is decided by a committee headed by the District Collector and consisting of the Superintendent of Police of the District Forest Officer.
The government is also taking significant steps to curb the Maoist insurgency. Senior security advisor in the home ministry, K Vijay Kumar, says that Maoists are certainly rattled (after the casualties in recent years) and their capability to strike at any time has been seriously damaged. He said that our forces have moved to areas considered Maoist strongholds and the Maoist attack in Sukma shows that it was a reaction to our success.
The district-level committee has the discretion to spend the amount on development schemes of their choice based on the need of the district.
An inter-ministerial meeting, held recently under the chairmanship of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, has also allowed the state governments to give environmental clearance up to 40 hectares of forest land in LWE-hit areas for carrying out development works.