Scheme to root out naxal influence

5 11 2008

source: TOI

1 Nov 2008, 0343 hrs IST, Satyendra Kumar, TNN

Now on the threshold of its third year, Aapki Sarkar Aapke Dwar, a pioneering scheme aimed at rooting out Naxal influences through development —

has emerged as one of the most successful programmes of the state government in Jehanabad district.

Conceived by the then home secretary H C Sirohy and launched by chief minister Nitish Kumar at Sikariya village on January 21, 2006, Aapki Sarkar Aapke Dwar (Asdwar) programme has brought down considerably cases of naxalite violence in the region and also won acceptibility among rural folk, police, academics and social organisations. This is something which is a huge feat considering that several such programmes launched in the district in the past like the Operation Rakshak and Operation Siddhartha were virtual non-events.

The success of the programme — both in winning critical acclaim at various local and state-level platforms and producing outstanding results at the ground level lies in its integrated development approach and sincere efforts of the district administration to sustain the programme despite all odds.

The Jehanabad district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agrawal, who is working with a missionary zeal to impart a new tone and content to the whole programme, said the scheme envisages to bring development to the grassroots. Under Aasdwar programme our main objective is to sanitise the Naxal-affected panchayats in the distirct first and then saturate them with development in a phased manner, he added.

The scheme is currently underway in five naxalite affected panchayats of the district Viz Sikariya, Sewanan, Mandebigha, Surungpur — Bhawanichak and Jamuk, all in Jehanabad Sadar block. All villages under these five panchayats are witnessing a flurry of developmental activities on a war footing. The state government has come out with a liberal package of Welfare Schemes under Aasdwar including construction of Cement – Concrete lanes, drains, chaupals and link rods in these panchayats worth over Rs.29 crores. Other works include construction of buildings for schools and Aanganbadi centres, culverts and individual toilets.

Also resurrected is the Dangar reservoir project which wa slong confined to the dusty files of the water resources development department.

Doles under various welfare schemes to the tune of Rs.1 crore have already been distributed at mega development camps organised in these panchayats during the past two years.

Under the plan the state government has decided to construct panchayat Sarkar Bhawan in all these five panchayats at an estimated cost of Rs.2.20 crore. Work on them is likely to commence soon.

Sikaria panchayat once considered the naxalite capital of the state, now wears a completely changed look. Sikariya today boasts of being the first panchayat in the state with its own website: www.sikariyapanchayat.bih.nic.in. The website features all the information relating to the panchayat and the Aasdwar programme.

Sikariya panchayat headquarters in currently housed in a sprawling builidng complex . The panchayat office located in this unified campus offers single window system facilities to the local people. There is a village knowledge centre with Internet facility which offers computer training to the educated unemployed rural youths including girls.

The panchayat office is fully computerised with information felating to various state and Centre sponsored schemes. The office is manned by Assistant Project Officer, Rojgar Sevak, Panchayat Sevak and revenue Karmachari during working hours. There is provision for instant issuance of job cards to the landless labourers under the NREGA. A separate police post with 20 SAP jawans is also stationed on the panchayat office campus to look after the security needs.

There is a six-bedded additional primary health centre with two doctors and paramedics. The Sikariya panchayat building complex also houses a computerised extension counter of the Madhya Bihar Gramin Bank (MBGB), an artificial insemination centre, two PDS shops and a 500-ton capacity warehouse of the state food and civil supplies corporation. The Sikariya panchayat is also all set to win Nirmal Gram Panchayat Puruskar with work on most of the toilets to be completed in the next couple of months.

Parchas, pension benefits for the old, destitute, widows and the handicapped and cycles and scholarships to the students of weaker sections are being given within the shortest processing time in the Sikariya panchayat office. Jehanabad Dm Sanjay Kumar Agrawal has been regularly visiting all these five panchayats where Aasdwar programme is underway along with a large entourage of officials and employees.

The people at large seem to have embraced the state’s Aasdwar programme in a big way. What is most unusual is that the government officials now move around freely in these villages where once every government programme was boycotted by the villagers under threats from the banned Naxalite outfit, the people’s war group (PWG). There was a time especially during the stormy 1980s when there was no direct contact between the government and the people for years together.

The locals joined forces with the Naxalites in the hope that it would alleviate poverty. But with the changing times, the people seem to have realised that the Aasdwar programme offers all that the naxalites had promised an end to poverty, homestead land, drinking water and self-employment opportunities.

Once a dreaded and inaccessible place, Sikariya boasts of many economic activities-poultry and dairy farming, horticulture, Bindi and toy-making which fetches the locals considerable monthly income. Coordinated efforts are also being made by the district rural development agency to train men and women belonging to the under privileged section and promote entregreurship among them.

To begin with, at least 100 women from the most economically backward families of Sikariya panchayt have formed three self help groups (SHGs) to augment their income. In the first phase, 30 women have been given training in Bindi making. The district administration is extending financial and marketing support to promote various economic activities among these women.

However, this charge has not come without a stiff resistance from the naxalites. Even now, the naxalites tries to put spokes in the wheel of progress rolling in the area. But thanks to the rare show of solidarity of the local people for the Aasdwar programme , the naxalites have been left with no option but to bow under the popular pressure.

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Sreelatha Menon: Mirror on the wall

11 06 2008

EAR TO THE GROUND

Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi May 18, 2008, 2:24 IST

A Planning Commission report points at lack of empowerment of local communities as the main reason for the fast spread of the Naxal movement.

The UPA government will be known for many achievements, notably the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right to Information Act, and if all goes well, the Women’s Reservation Act as well.
But the finest may yet come if the recommendations of an expert group of the Planning Commission on development challenges in extremist-affected areas are translated into action.
The report is honest and harsh about the mistakes governments have made over the last 60 years that have led to Naxalism thriving in so many districts of the country. It asks governments to undo the damage and do everything, including talking to Naxalites, “to rectify a historic wrong.”
The report says lack of empowerment of panchayats is one of the key causes for lack of development in rural areas with the Provision for Extension of Panchayat Act (PESA) only partially implemented in tribal areas.
It raises the issue of states’ unwillingness to part with their power and functions to share them with panchayats. The fact that the writ of the state does not run in as many as 125 districts in extremism-affected areas makes it clear that the state bureaucracy has abjectly failed in delivering good governance in these areas. Hence, empowerment of panchayats would practically be the only way for effective governance of these areas.
It also looks at the huge underbelly of deprivation below the crest of 9 per cent growth rate. Even the government’s attempt to bridge this has resulted in more divides.
“We have two worlds of education, two worlds of health, two worlds of transport and two worlds of housing..,”it says.
It also points at the many conflicts that are going on in mining zones even as new steel companies are exploring ground to do business without any intention of including communities as stakeholders.
It says “even those who know very little about the Naxalite movement know that its central slogan has been ‘land to the tiller’ and that attempts to put the poor in possession of land have defined much of their activity.”
In this context, the report questions the wisdom of having special economic zones (SEZs), saying “the notion of an SEZ, irrespective of whether it is established on multi-cropped land or not, is an assault on livelihood”. It again points at intrusion into the vital life vein of tribal and rural communities viz their common property resources, which contribute significantly to the rural economy and provide sustenance to local communities in rural areas.
It says privatisation is carried out through extension of the boundaries of private farms, forcible grabbing, and distributive policies of the government, and hints that all these are making it a cakewalk for Naxalites.
Nandini Sundar, a teacher and scholar who has written vastly on Naxal issues, says it is one of the finest reports and looks at the matter exactly as it should. She welcomes the suggestion that the government should talk to Naxalites. If it can succeed in Nepal, why not with the Maoists in India, she asks.