India is today proudly proclaiming an above 9 per cent growth rate and striving to achieve double digit growth. But it is a matter of common observation that the inequalities between classes, between town and country, and between the upper castes and the underprivileged communities are increasing.
That this has potential for tremendous unrest is recognized by all. But somehow policy prescriptions presume otherwise. As the responsibility of the State for providing equal social rights recedes in the sphere of policy making, we have two worlds of education, two worlds of health, two worlds of transport and two worlds of housing, with a gaping divide in between.
The planning commission conducted a study on how the green revolution turned to the red revolution and how the various governments handled since 1967 till 2008. While the report itself is a few years older – it’s observations, it’s conclusions, it’s recommendations are still very much relevant. Especially important are it’s studies around what the previous government’s did with some success in curbing the naxal movement.
image source: forbes.com
1967: West Bengal
Wide spread dissatisfaction among the peasantry which the militants were taking advantage of.
What was done?: Ceiling-surplus land of the big zamindars and landowners. This program resulted in vesting in the Govt. of a million acres of good agricultural land belonging to the erstwhile zamindars and jotedars.
Result: Large areas of land would be distributed among them, their loyalty shifted from Naxalite militants to the normal political process. By and large by 1973 the Naxalite movement disappeared in West Bengal.
Acute social and agrarian unrest arising out of widespread social discrimination against the dalits and exploitation of agricultural workers and tenant farmers.
What was done?: Jai Prakash Narayan’s took the initiative to meet the militant movement by mobilising Musahars for occupation and cultivation of Bhoodan land and some benami lands of very rich landowners of the area
When rural unrest spread from West Bengal to areas in undivided Bihar as well as the agency areas of Andhra Pradesh.
What was done?: Central Govt. responded by producing a document on the causes of agrarian discontent, highlighting the failure of implementation of land reform laws and minimum wages act. Land reform laws, minimum wages act were introduced. Although were not a perfect implementation, it did have a good impact. Rural unrest wanted for a while.
From the 70s to the middle 80s the Central Govt. recognized the directive principles of the state policy. and reiterated the commitment to reduction in inequality of income and wealth among and within different sections of the community.
Things started changing starting 1991
With the paradigm shift of economic policy from 1991, all these other values of egalitarianism, equity, control of exploitation, social and economic and political justice lost their earlier priority.
Fast forward to 2000’s
The ministry of home affairs annual report for the year 2006-2007 mentions the spread of Naxal movement across 12 states of the union.
The prime minister declares the Naxalite movement as he single biggest threat to the country.
2006 – Government of India’s policy
- deal sternly with the naxalites
- address the political, security and development problems in a holistic manner
- ensure inter-state coordination in dealing with the problem
- accord priority to faster socio-economic development in the Naxal affected or prone areas
- supplement the efforts and resources of the affected states on both security and development fronts
- promote local resistance groups against the Naxalites
- Use mass media to highlight the futility of Naxal violence and the loss of life and property caused by it
- Have a proper surrender and rehabilitation policy of the Naxalites
- Affected states will not have any peace dialogue with the Naxal groups, unless the latter agree to give up violence and arms
There was no mention of dealing with land insecurity, livelihood insecurity, food insecurity and security against economic and social oppression were not being properly addressed.
The Forest Dwellers Right Act, the National Rehabilitation & Resettlement Policy, 2007, The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are all important programs having tremendous potential to implement the directive principles of the state, however, their implementation was far from being satisfactory.
Evidence from the backward and tribal areas of Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh demonstrates that greater focus on better administrative support is required to extend the reach of these programs. So far the evidence indicates that militants have not interfered with the implementation of this program in these areas.
The law enforcement machinery in the affected areas would need to be strengthened. Some of the suggested measures could be:
- Additional police stations / outposts in the affected areas;
- Filling up the police vacancies and improving the police-people ratio;
- Sophisticated weapons for the police;
- Personnel to be given training including in matters relating to Fundamental Right of the citizen and Human Rights;
- Incentive allowance for staff posted in affected areas;
- Leadership of a high order for the forces deployed; and
- Specific ban on extra-judicial killings and “encounter” killings.
Along with these measures both development administration and magistrates require to be strengthened for providing good governance in these areas.
The Naxalite movement has to be recognized as a political movement with a strong base among the landless and poor peasantry and adivasis. Its emergence and growth need to be contextualized in the social conditions and experience of people who form Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas — Report of an Expert Group 60 a part of it.
The huge gap between state policy and performance is a feature of these conditions. Though its professed long term ideology is capturing state power by force, in its day to day manifestation it is to be looked upon as basically a fight for social justice, equality, protection and local development. The two have to be seen together without overplaying the former. Its geographical spread is rooted in failure to remove the conditions which give rise to it.