‘In future, we will see more Indian faces of terror’

1 11 2008

October 29, 2008

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Source: REDIFF

With the arrest of a Sadhvi and her alleged accomplices for their alleged involvement in the Malegaon blast, the term Hindu terrorism has got new meaning.

Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former joint director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau, has studied terrorism in-depth for many years. He has written several books on Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence and Bangladesh sponsored terrorism. Dhar took time off to speak with rediff.com‘s Vicky Nanjappa about the new trends in terrorism and also about the spate of incidents that have rocked this country in the past couple of years.

What are your views on the eye for an eye attitude of some Hindu outfits?

Newton’s third law (for every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction) has started taking effect. We need to find out the extent to which the Hindu mind is being influenced especially when everyone is flashing what the minorities have had to say. Yes I would say that the mentality is growing and it sure is scary. I think it is time to look beyond the Bharatiya Janata Party and other saffron outfits and think of Hindus as a whole, and see up to what extent they are being influenced.

Sir do you endorse these views?

Definitely not. I have always been saying that people should have faith in the system and try and rectify problems in a democratic manner. I am trying to moderate the system. It is very important to have the Muslims with us. We need to moderate their views too.

What are your views on the Malegaon incident in which a Sadhvi was arrested?

No one is saying anything clearly. What is happening is that the Muslims allege that they are being maligned. Now parties which depend on the Muslim vote are finding it difficult to secure those votes. Another fact is that the BJP and its allies seem to be on a better footing to face the forthcoming elections. Hence it seems as though this is an attempt to reflect terror on the BJP. Let the noise regarding this case settle down and then the truth will come out.

There are allegations that former IB and military officials trained some Hindu activists to carry out blasts. What do you have to say about this?

This is blatant falsehood and bunkum. The IB has no expertise in bomb making. Some military personnel may have knowledge regarding this. But tell me is it necessary for someone to train when all the information is so easily available on the internet. These are just allegations which have not been proven.

You have written and spoken about the presence of ISI cells in India. Despite both the IB and the police claiming to be making inroads how is it that such cells continue to function and carry out blasts at will.

The ISI cells and its modules cannot be fully unearthed. There are several reasons for this. Whenever the IB or the police go for action, a hue and cry is raised by human rights groups and the so-called secularists. Political parties are weak and they end up falling back on the support of the minorities. Electoral considerations are another reason for not being able to unearth all the cells. In our country the police are under the ruling party and unless a free hand is given there is very little chance of making headway completely. Although the IB is an old and efficient organisation, their strength in terms of man power is not sufficient. We also need is an IB which will not go by the orders of the political parties.

What about the participation of the people while gathering intelligence?

Yes that is very important. Collaboration between the people and security agencies is required and this should include the Muslim community too. The Muslim community needs to know that being inspired by Pakistan is bad for them.

What are your views on the latest instances of terrorism and the birth of the Indian Mujahideen [Images]?

It is a new name that’s it. The Students Islamic Movement of India could not possibly function under its own name once it was banned and hence it became the Indian Mujahideen. Basically the IM has the people from the same resource pool.

What do you have to say about the new age terrorist who is educated and tech savvy?

As I said before, the IM has the people from the same resource pool of SIMI [Images]. SIMI always had a pool of educated people.

Do you think that the Mumbai and Gujarat police have cracked the entire IM module?

They are making headway for sure. But getting leads is one thing and connecting it is another. Once the leads are connected, one could say that they have succeeded completely. As of now what I see is just newspaper investigation and PR work by the police to show that they are doing some work.

There is a hue and cry about the Jamia Nagar encounter, but the Delhi [Images] police maintain that this incident helped them crack the case. What are your views on the same?

Whenever such an act takes place there is bound to be a hue and cry. I would say that the operation is genuine but would also like to add that it should have been done in a better way. Encounter is a science and should be undertaken in such a manner that none can raise a finger.

We see that Jihad is becoming more home-bred. Why do you think this has happened?

It is not exactly correct to say this. It is only now that we are getting to see a more Indian face to this. It just shows that both Pakistan and Bangladesh have succeeded in creating modules in India. In the coming years we will get to see more Indian faces. The need of the hour is to eliminate these modules.

Terror has travelled south. Karnataka and Kerala [Images] have become hotbeds for recruitment and training. Did the IB see this coming?

I have shouted and screamed about this in the past. I had given a talk at the Indian Institute of Science two years back where I mentioned that several areas in both Karnataka and Kerala had several modules. But at that time no one believed me. However now everyone seems to be waking up to the problem.

Lastly please rate the states which have coped best with terror.

Well, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat have dealt best with the problem. Kerala has just woken up, Tamil Nadu is yet to wake up, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh [Images] are waking up.

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The truth is security in India is a joke Krishna Prasad

27 07 2008

The truth is security in India is a joke

Krishna Prasad

July 25, 2008

Thirty-two months after an Indian Institute of Technology professor was killed on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, ‘terror’ returned to the pensioners’ paradise that no longer is, shortly after lunch on Friday afternoon.

The question is not why Bangalore, but why did it take so bloody long?

Seriously.

Why did it take so long for these smart-assed sons of bitches to set off half-a-dozen bombs just as we were about to hit the sack for our afternoon siesta in our ‘sleeper cells’, when they could have done it yesterday, or day before, or last week, or last month?

The rocket scientists dressed as ‘intelligence sources’ and ‘security experts’ are already busy adding one and one and making it eleven: It was a Friday. It happened at 1.30 pm or shortly thereafter. Ergo, you know who was behind them.

Those bearded, fez-wearing, menacing-looking guys who procreate like hell, send their children to madrassas, and receive their cheques from strange places.

Any time now, the state government will start blaming central intelligence agencies for not alerting them. The Centre, in turn, will blame some unpronounceable outfit whose benefactors are across the border.

By primetime, the prime minister (depending on the toll) will make a macho statement something to the effect of ‘We will not cow down to terror.’ The Union home minister, whose very sentence-construction sends terrorists scurrying for cover, will pronounce that ‘such incidents will not deter the government from pursuing its policy of dealing with terrorists in a resolute manner.’

Tomorrow morning, the Congress which is in the Opposition in Karnataka will blame the BJP which is in power for being interested in anything but governance. The BJP in turn will blame the Congress for revoking POTA and making this a ‘soft State.’ Editor types will stand up and say it is time for ‘moderates’ to speak out.

And just when the TV guys were rubbing their hands in glee that something finally had happened to keep them busy over the next 36 hours, bam, the toll is just two. How do they fill ‘We, the People’ and ‘Big Fight’ and ‘Weekend Edition’ this weekend?

Yes, it sounds all too flippant.

Two people have killed, several more injured, how can we be so joyful and jokey about such a serious ‘menace’ like terrorism that is ‘eating into the vitals of our system’ and taking ‘innocent lives’?

We would.

If they would.

The truth is security in India is a joke. You know it, the terrorists know it, it’s just that our political and administrative and police masters think that we don’t.

So, like Pavlov’s pups, we are supposed to feel concerned about what happened in the ‘IT capital’ on Friday afternoon; we are supposed to slam terrorism ‘in no uncertain terms’; we are supposed to light a candle in our hearts and mourn.

For what?

Truth is we have been there, done that, and bought the lousy blood-stained T-shirt several times before: In Hyderabad, in Bombay, in Delhi, in Jaipur, and not necessarily in that order.

And you don’t need rocket scientists dressed as ‘intelligence sources’ or ‘security experts’ to tell you that it will happen again in Hyderabad, in Bombay, in Delhi, in Jaipur, and not necessarily in that order, some time soon.

The truth is security in India is a joke. Unfortunately, it is on you.





Green reasons for red rage

30 06 2008

By Richard Mahapatra

from: infochange environment

An expert group of the Planning Commission establishes a strong correlation between social unrest and the spread of Naxalism and poverty, landlessness and inequitable management of natural resources

An expert group on development challenges in extremist-affected areas (read: Naxalite-affected districts) set up by the Planning Commission of India in May 2006 has submitted its report to the Commission. The still-to-be-publicised report attributes the spread of Naxalite violence — which the prime minister has called the “biggest internal security threat India has ever had to face” — to centralised forest management, abandonment of land reforms and the disempowerment of panchayats in tribal areas. It calls for radical changes in India’s natural resource management regime.

The 18-member expert group held extensive discussions and reviewed development programmes and socio-economic status in Naxalite-affected areas. D Bandopadhyay, Executive Chairman of the Council for Social Development, Kolkata, chaired the expert group. Interestingly, of the 18 members only one represented the Planning Commission. Members included B D Sharma, noted human rights activist, and Bela Bhatia, Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

Terming discrimination against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes “structural violence in society”, the expert group recommends changes in the development model in Naxalite-affected districts. “While not condoning the radical violence (of Naxalite groups), an honest response to it must, therefore, begin by ameliorating the structural violence in society,” the report says.

“Encouragement of vigilante groups such as Salwa Judum and herding of hapless tribals into makeshift camps with dismal living conditions, removed from their habitat and deprived of livelihood as a strategy to counter the influence of the radical Left is not desirable. It delegitimises politics, dehumanises people, degenerates those engaged in their ‘security’, and above all represents abdication of the State itself. It should be undone immediately,” the report continues. “It should be replaced by a strategy which positions an empowered taskforce of specially picked responsive officials to execute all protection and development programmes for their benefit and redress people’s grievances,” the report adds.

The expert group’s report is currently with the Planning Commission. Officials are giving it the final touches before sending it to the prime minister’s office.

Just a few months ago another Planning Commission group — the working group on land relations, set up to contribute to the preparation of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan — also termed Naxalite violence a symptom of brewing socio-economic turmoil in India’s poorest areas. “They (Naxalites) are proving to the hilt the doctrine of Mao Zedong of ‘fish in water’, where fish are militants and water is the mass of disgruntled and dissatisfied peasantry and landless agricultural workers,” the report says.

The geography of poverty

Naxalite activities have spread to 16 of 28 Indian states. According to the Union home ministry, Naxalite groups have an influence in at least 165 districts out of India’s 600-plus districts. The red corridor stretches to 92,000 square kilometres, from the Nepalese border to India’s southwest coast. It is estimated that 180 million people in the country are impacted by Naxalite insurgency. That is, every sixth Indian citizen lives in the Naxalite shadow.

Since 2003, more than 2,500 people have been killed in Naxalite violence while 7,000 incidents of violence involving Naxalites have been reported. In the last four years, more and more civilians are being killed in the violence; most of them belong either to the scheduled tribes or scheduled castes. Naxalite violence and the number of casualties are the highest in Chhattisgarh. While it has declined in Andhra Pradesh, it is on the rise in Orissa. The increase in Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh is attributed to Naxalites targeting the Salwa Judum campaign to counter the movement.

The 165 Naxalite-affected districts are among the country’s 200 poorest and most backward districts, as ranked by the Planning Commission of India. The irony of this is not lost: if you superimpose a map of India’s forests, its minerals, its watersheds, and its poorest people (specifically tribal people), you will get a map of the spread of India’s Naxalite movement. According to a research paper from the Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust, New Delhi, Naxalites control close to 19% of India’s ‘good’ forests. This is because Naxalite-affected districts account for around 40% of India’s forest areas. India’s major mineral producing districts are also its poorest and most underdeveloped districts. Forty per cent of mineral-rich districts are Naxalite-affected, says a report by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Reasons for the rage

The expert group compared 20 severely Naxalite-affected districts in five states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa — with 20 non-affected districts in the same states to establish a correlation between certain human development indicators and their links to social unrest. It found 10 important factors that apparently trigger the spread of Naxalism. These include a greater share of forest cover, greater share of agricultural labour in the workforce, and low per capita foodgrain production (see table below).

Identified factors which distinguish between affected and forward districts

Orissa
Jharkhand
Chhattisgarh
Bihar
Andhra Pradesh

Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Share of
SC/ST
(%)*
65 23 45 30 69 36 19 18 26 22
Literacy rate
(%)*
44 76 40 51 50 68 46 48 56 68
Infant
Mortality
rate (%)
(1999)
123 73 n/a n/a 76 57 n/a n/a 34 28
Urbanisation
(%)*
17 23 10 37 7 29 12 8.6 24 27
Forest
Coverage
(%)**
39 15 38 16 53 28 8 1 17 14
Agricultural
Labourers
(%)*
35 25 29 20 26 34 52 46 40 51
Per capita
Foodgrain
production
(Kg)*
151 95 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 121 293
Road length
per 100
sq.kms@
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 44 70
Rural HH with
no Bank a/c
(%)*
81 80 77 74 83 82 83 80 69 72
Rural HH
without
specified
assets (%)*
63 37 46 36 47 31 53 50 56 41

* : Figure based 2001 census.
**: Figure based on FSI 2003.
@ : Figure based on 1996-97

Alienation from land

Bringing land reforms back onto the national agenda is the expert group’s most important recommendation. “Efforts at implementation of ceiling laws stopped about two to three decades ago. A serious effort must be made to continuously implement the land ceiling laws, so that the ceiling-surplus land obtained is made available for distribution,” the report says. Most Naxalite-affected districts have a high percentage of landless people and marginal farmers.

The country’s land reforms initiative was, in fact, a response to growing tenant unrest, and also the Naxalbari uprising. India’s land reform laws took shape in the early-1960s and 1970s, with governments affording their implementation top priority. In 1972, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met with chief ministers to discuss the growing Naxalite problem she brought land reforms back onto the national agenda. Then home minister Y B Chavan said: “We will not allow the green revolution to turn into a red revolution.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, however, the issue of land reforms went off the policymakers’ radar. Interestingly, this coincides with the opening up of India’s economy and liberalisation in the industrial sector. Most studies indicate that inequalities have increased rather than decreased. The number of landless labourers has gone up and the top 10% monopolise more land now than in 1951. It’s no wonder that Naxalism spread the most during this period: 120 districts out of 165 reported a Naxal presence during this period.

Over 170 million are estimated to be landless labourers in India; another 250 million own less than a fifth of a hectare.

The working group on land relations appointed by the Planning Commission called land reforms in India a “forgotten agenda”. “The policymakers are finding existing land reforms that were enacted on the basis of central guidelines of the early-’70s not only unwanted roadblocks but also obnoxious to the free play of capital in the land market,” said the group.

Land acquisition for industry and other development projects is another issue that has fuelled support for the Naxalites, says the expert group. It not only blames mindless land acquisition by the government for industry and other development works but also rejects the latest Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 as being “not effective” enough to hinder land alienation. The proposed Act is under consideration by Parliament. “Public purpose as defined in the Land Acquisition Act should be revised further and restricted to projects taken up for national security and public welfare implemented directly by the government. Public purpose should not be stretched to acquisition for companies and registered societies,” observes the expert group.

Naxalite-affected districts host close to 80% of people displaced by so-called development projects. It is no wonder that out of 250 people’s protests against land acquisition or eviction from forests, 200 took place in Naxalite-affected districts.

Of late, battles between Naxalites and the police have become more intense. This is because there has been an unprecedented increase in land acquisition in Naxalite-affected districts for the scores of industries coming up. Estimates show that Naxalite-affected districts, due to their mineral and water resources, are attracting foreign direct investments worth US$ 112 billion. For this kind of investment, governments have to acquire an estimated 50,000 ha of land. This is apart from the forestland that has to be diverted.

“It is critical for the government to recognise that dissent or expression of dissatisfaction is a positive feature of democracy, that unrest is often the only thing that actually puts pressure on the government to make things work and for the government to live up to its own promises. However the right to protest, even peacefully, is often not recognised by the authorities, and even non-violent agitations are met with severe repression,” says the report in a scathing criticism of government policy.

From margin to mainstream

Blaming the government for the sorry state of the country’s scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and other marginalised populations, the expert group recommends the re-organisation of programmes and policies concerning these groups. It finds that they have been formulated in isolation, thereby minimising their impact. It recommends widespread consultations between the parties concerned, and the launch of joint initiatives for concerted and compulsory action on the joint recommendations; this should become mandatory for all chief ministers.

The expert group identifies four instruments — the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, and the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 (for which a Bill has been put before Parliament) — to help build a “protective shield” for marginalised groups. It argues that effective implementation of these Acts will curb the feeling of alienation among scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other marginalised groups, thereby keeping them away from Naxalite influence.

The following are the key recommendations of the expert group:

  • All debt liabilities of weaker sections should be liquidated, in cases (i) wherein the debtor has paid an amount equivalent to the original principal amount, and (ii) wherein the intended benefit for which the loan was advanced has not accrued to the borrowers.
  • Forest produce should be provided a protective market by fixing a minimum support price for various commodities, upgrading traditional haats, and setting up modern storage facilities to avoid post-harvest losses. At the same time, the public distribution system should be specially designed for the specific needs of forest-dwellers.
  • Clarifications in the draft rules, circulated for the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, on June 19, 2007, for certain difficult points like “other traditional rights,”  “primarily reside in and dependent on forest or forest land,” “rights to minor forest produce,” etc, which were summarily deleted in the final notification of the rules published on January 1, 2008, should be fully restored to remove ambiguity and make implementation easy.
  • All petty cases registered under forest-related legislation against tribals and other poor persons should be withdrawn.
  • Land tribunals or fast-track courts, under Article 323-B of the Constitution, should be set up for expeditious disposal of ceiling cases. Old cases should be unearthed and fresh inquiries conducted. Since landowners get a lot of time to manipulate and create false documents, no cut-off date for the re-opening of old cases should be prescribed.
  • The definition of land should be amplified to include government, public, forest, panchayat land and community property resources (CPRs), so that loss of use rights can be compensated.
  • Acquisition of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes should be kept to the minimum through a land use policy with statutory backing. Social impact assessments should be strictly carried out in all cases to ensure that the impact of the project on the affected families is assessed in a holistic and transparent manner and ameliorative measures built into the rehabilitation plan.
  • The Planning Commission should consider devising a programme for the restoration of common property resources to provide sustenance to poorer communities.
  • The government should saturate rain-fed and dry farming areas with participatory watershed development projects to help conserve soil and water and develop natural resources, with suitable changes in cropping patterns under common guidelines issued by the ministries of agriculture and rural development for national watershed development projects for rain-fed areas.

(Richard Mahapatra is based in New Delhi and writes on environment and development. In 2006 he was awarded an Infochangeindia Research Fellowship for reportage on the impact of climate change in Orissa)

InfoChange News & Features, May 200





Green reasons for red rage

30 06 2008

By Richard Mahapatra

from: infochange environment

An expert group of the Planning Commission establishes a strong correlation between social unrest and the spread of Naxalism and poverty, landlessness and inequitable management of natural resources

An expert group on development challenges in extremist-affected areas (read: Naxalite-affected districts) set up by the Planning Commission of India in May 2006 has submitted its report to the Commission. The still-to-be-publicised report attributes the spread of Naxalite violence — which the prime minister has called the “biggest internal security threat India has ever had to face” — to centralised forest management, abandonment of land reforms and the disempowerment of panchayats in tribal areas. It calls for radical changes in India’s natural resource management regime.

The 18-member expert group held extensive discussions and reviewed development programmes and socio-economic status in Naxalite-affected areas. D Bandopadhyay, Executive Chairman of the Council for Social Development, Kolkata, chaired the expert group. Interestingly, of the 18 members only one represented the Planning Commission. Members included B D Sharma, noted human rights activist, and Bela Bhatia, Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

Terming discrimination against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes “structural violence in society”, the expert group recommends changes in the development model in Naxalite-affected districts. “While not condoning the radical violence (of Naxalite groups), an honest response to it must, therefore, begin by ameliorating the structural violence in society,” the report says.

“Encouragement of vigilante groups such as Salwa Judum and herding of hapless tribals into makeshift camps with dismal living conditions, removed from their habitat and deprived of livelihood as a strategy to counter the influence of the radical Left is not desirable. It delegitimises politics, dehumanises people, degenerates those engaged in their ‘security’, and above all represents abdication of the State itself. It should be undone immediately,” the report continues. “It should be replaced by a strategy which positions an empowered taskforce of specially picked responsive officials to execute all protection and development programmes for their benefit and redress people’s grievances,” the report adds.

The expert group’s report is currently with the Planning Commission. Officials are giving it the final touches before sending it to the prime minister’s office.

Just a few months ago another Planning Commission group — the working group on land relations, set up to contribute to the preparation of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan — also termed Naxalite violence a symptom of brewing socio-economic turmoil in India’s poorest areas. “They (Naxalites) are proving to the hilt the doctrine of Mao Zedong of ‘fish in water’, where fish are militants and water is the mass of disgruntled and dissatisfied peasantry and landless agricultural workers,” the report says.

The geography of poverty

Naxalite activities have spread to 16 of 28 Indian states. According to the Union home ministry, Naxalite groups have an influence in at least 165 districts out of India’s 600-plus districts. The red corridor stretches to 92,000 square kilometres, from the Nepalese border to India’s southwest coast. It is estimated that 180 million people in the country are impacted by Naxalite insurgency. That is, every sixth Indian citizen lives in the Naxalite shadow.

Since 2003, more than 2,500 people have been killed in Naxalite violence while 7,000 incidents of violence involving Naxalites have been reported. In the last four years, more and more civilians are being killed in the violence; most of them belong either to the scheduled tribes or scheduled castes. Naxalite violence and the number of casualties are the highest in Chhattisgarh. While it has declined in Andhra Pradesh, it is on the rise in Orissa. The increase in Naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh is attributed to Naxalites targeting the Salwa Judum campaign to counter the movement.

The 165 Naxalite-affected districts are among the country’s 200 poorest and most backward districts, as ranked by the Planning Commission of India. The irony of this is not lost: if you superimpose a map of India’s forests, its minerals, its watersheds, and its poorest people (specifically tribal people), you will get a map of the spread of India’s Naxalite movement. According to a research paper from the Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust, New Delhi, Naxalites control close to 19% of India’s ‘good’ forests. This is because Naxalite-affected districts account for around 40% of India’s forest areas. India’s major mineral producing districts are also its poorest and most underdeveloped districts. Forty per cent of mineral-rich districts are Naxalite-affected, says a report by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Reasons for the rage

The expert group compared 20 severely Naxalite-affected districts in five states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa — with 20 non-affected districts in the same states to establish a correlation between certain human development indicators and their links to social unrest. It found 10 important factors that apparently trigger the spread of Naxalism. These include a greater share of forest cover, greater share of agricultural labour in the workforce, and low per capita foodgrain production (see table below).

Identified factors which distinguish between affected and forward districts

 

Orissa
Jharkhand
Chhattisgarh
Bihar
Andhra Pradesh

 

Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Affected
Districts
Forward
Districts
Share of 
SC/ST 
(%)*
65 23 45 30 69 36 19 18 26 22
Literacy rate
(%)*
44 76 40 51 50 68 46 48 56 68
Infant 
Mortality
rate (%)
(1999)
123 73 n/a n/a 76 57 n/a n/a 34 28
Urbanisation
(%)*
17 23 10 37 7 29 12 8.6 24 27
Forest 
Coverage
(%)**
39 15 38 16 53 28 8 1 17 14
Agricultural 
Labourers 
(%)*
35 25 29 20 26 34 52 46 40 51
Per capita 
Foodgrain 
production
(Kg)*
151 95 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 121 293
Road length
per 100 
sq.kms@
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 44 70
Rural HH with
no Bank a/c
(%)*
81 80 77 74 83 82 83 80 69 72
Rural HH 
without 
specified 
assets (%)*
63 37 46 36 47 31 53 50 56 41

* : Figure based 2001 census.
**: Figure based on FSI 2003.
@ : Figure based on 1996-97

Alienation from land

Bringing land reforms back onto the national agenda is the expert group’s most important recommendation. “Efforts at implementation of ceiling laws stopped about two to three decades ago. A serious effort must be made to continuously implement the land ceiling laws, so that the ceiling-surplus land obtained is made available for distribution,” the report says. Most Naxalite-affected districts have a high percentage of landless people and marginal farmers.

The country’s land reforms initiative was, in fact, a response to growing tenant unrest, and also the Naxalbari uprising. India’s land reform laws took shape in the early-1960s and 1970s, with governments affording their implementation top priority. In 1972, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi met with chief ministers to discuss the growing Naxalite problem she brought land reforms back onto the national agenda. Then home minister Y B Chavan said: “We will not allow the green revolution to turn into a red revolution.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, however, the issue of land reforms went off the policymakers’ radar. Interestingly, this coincides with the opening up of India’s economy and liberalisation in the industrial sector. Most studies indicate that inequalities have increased rather than decreased. The number of landless labourers has gone up and the top 10% monopolise more land now than in 1951. It’s no wonder that Naxalism spread the most during this period: 120 districts out of 165 reported a Naxal presence during this period.

Over 170 million are estimated to be landless labourers in India; another 250 million own less than a fifth of a hectare.

The working group on land relations appointed by the Planning Commission called land reforms in India a “forgotten agenda”. “The policymakers are finding existing land reforms that were enacted on the basis of central guidelines of the early-’70s not only unwanted roadblocks but also obnoxious to the free play of capital in the land market,” said the group.

Land acquisition for industry and other development projects is another issue that has fuelled support for the Naxalites, says the expert group. It not only blames mindless land acquisition by the government for industry and other development works but also rejects the latest Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 as being “not effective” enough to hinder land alienation. The proposed Act is under consideration by Parliament. “Public purpose as defined in the Land Acquisition Act should be revised further and restricted to projects taken up for national security and public welfare implemented directly by the government. Public purpose should not be stretched to acquisition for companies and registered societies,” observes the expert group.

Naxalite-affected districts host close to 80% of people displaced by so-called development projects. It is no wonder that out of 250 people’s protests against land acquisition or eviction from forests, 200 took place in Naxalite-affected districts.

Of late, battles between Naxalites and the police have become more intense. This is because there has been an unprecedented increase in land acquisition in Naxalite-affected districts for the scores of industries coming up. Estimates show that Naxalite-affected districts, due to their mineral and water resources, are attracting foreign direct investments worth US$ 112 billion. For this kind of investment, governments have to acquire an estimated 50,000 ha of land. This is apart from the forestland that has to be diverted.

“It is critical for the government to recognise that dissent or expression of dissatisfaction is a positive feature of democracy, that unrest is often the only thing that actually puts pressure on the government to make things work and for the government to live up to its own promises. However the right to protest, even peacefully, is often not recognised by the authorities, and even non-violent agitations are met with severe repression,” says the report in a scathing criticism of government policy.

From margin to mainstream

Blaming the government for the sorry state of the country’s scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and other marginalised populations, the expert group recommends the re-organisation of programmes and policies concerning these groups. It finds that they have been formulated in isolation, thereby minimising their impact. It recommends widespread consultations between the parties concerned, and the launch of joint initiatives for concerted and compulsory action on the joint recommendations; this should become mandatory for all chief ministers.

The expert group identifies four instruments — the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, and the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 (for which a Bill has been put before Parliament) — to help build a “protective shield” for marginalised groups. It argues that effective implementation of these Acts will curb the feeling of alienation among scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other marginalised groups, thereby keeping them away from Naxalite influence.

The following are the key recommendations of the expert group:

  • All debt liabilities of weaker sections should be liquidated, in cases (i) wherein the debtor has paid an amount equivalent to the original principal amount, and (ii) wherein the intended benefit for which the loan was advanced has not accrued to the borrowers.
  • Forest produce should be provided a protective market by fixing a minimum support price for various commodities, upgrading traditional haats, and setting up modern storage facilities to avoid post-harvest losses. At the same time, the public distribution system should be specially designed for the specific needs of forest-dwellers.
  • Clarifications in the draft rules, circulated for the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, on June 19, 2007, for certain difficult points like “other traditional rights,”  “primarily reside in and dependent on forest or forest land,” “rights to minor forest produce,” etc, which were summarily deleted in the final notification of the rules published on January 1, 2008, should be fully restored to remove ambiguity and make implementation easy.    
  • All petty cases registered under forest-related legislation against tribals and other poor persons should be withdrawn.
  • Land tribunals or fast-track courts, under Article 323-B of the Constitution, should be set up for expeditious disposal of ceiling cases. Old cases should be unearthed and fresh inquiries conducted. Since landowners get a lot of time to manipulate and create false documents, no cut-off date for the re-opening of old cases should be prescribed.
  • The definition of land should be amplified to include government, public, forest, panchayat land and community property resources (CPRs), so that loss of use rights can be compensated.
  • Acquisition of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes should be kept to the minimum through a land use policy with statutory backing. Social impact assessments should be strictly carried out in all cases to ensure that the impact of the project on the affected families is assessed in a holistic and transparent manner and ameliorative measures built into the rehabilitation plan.
  • The Planning Commission should consider devising a programme for the restoration of common property resources to provide sustenance to poorer communities.
  • The government should saturate rain-fed and dry farming areas with participatory watershed development projects to help conserve soil and water and develop natural resources, with suitable changes in cropping patterns under common guidelines issued by the ministries of agriculture and rural development for national watershed development projects for rain-fed areas.

(Richard Mahapatra is based in New Delhi and writes on environment and development. In 2006 he was awarded an Infochangeindia Research Fellowship for reportage on the impact of climate change in Orissa)

InfoChange News & Features, May 200