The Rediff Special/ Sharat Pradhan
Part I: Lal Salaam!
Part II: 'They will make me a widow'
In the vast government machinery dedicated to counter the Naxalite problem in India, there is a small group of officials who believe that police action alone will not provide a lasting remedy.
Mirzapur District Magistrate Chandrama Prasad belongs to this minority. He traces the problem to the wide disparity between the haves and have-nots, and believes that it cannot be solved without an economic package.
"Naxal activity had cropped up in this region [in the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border] in 1993-94," he says. "Police pressure in Bihar pushed the Naxals into UP. There was a lull for a few years, but trouble started fomenting again in 1998. I see both social and economic factors behind this resurgence."
There is no one-point solution to the problem, Prasad will tell you. He believes that it should be handled "comprehensively", with separate plans for the two sections.
The first step he took was to make it easy for legitimate applicants to acquire arms licence. This, he reasons, will help in building their self-confidence. Next, Prasad's plans to organise them through meetings and impart weapon training.
The DM's plans for the have-nots are aimed at their economic upliftment. "There is shortage of drinking water and an acute crisis of irrigation facilities in this rocky belt," Prasad says. "My first priority is to improve the availability of water."
For starters, he has asked village heads to ensure that all wells and ponds in their area are de-silted. Orders have been issued for installing bore-wells. Prasad is also working out a scheme for surface water harvesting.
"The existing standard of one hand-pump to a population of 200 is being revised for this district," he says. "Here, at least two hand-pumps are required."
Absence of medical facilities is another sore point with the tribals and dalits, who are routinely fleeced by doctors and quacks. Besides ensuring the regular attendance of medical personnel at primary health centres, the DM recently got 108 midwives appointed to tribal areas under a United States-funded project.
Under another scheme, biweekly visits by qualified doctors to far-flung villages are being arranged.
Education is another area in which the DM is taking an active interest. Prasad says schools under World Bank and United Nations schemes are now being set up in villages to provide free education till class five.
Besides these, the DM has taken steps to provide economic security. Most significantly, he has distributed some 10,000 acres of land to the poor.
"Also, our entire revenue machinery has been geared up to ensure the restoration of land to those who have been deprived of their legitimate rights," Prasad claims.
Of 34,000 such cases, some 10,000 have already been sorted out. "We have cut down the long procedures for restoring land to valid patta holders," he says. "What was shocking is that in several cases the dead were shown as the owners of land in the latest revenue records!"
Another point in Prasad's favour is that he sorted out the misinterpretation of a Supreme Court ban on illegal mining. "The one-man commission appointed by the SC and National Human Rights Commission allowed the allotment of pattas for mining to locals," he elaborates. "But no one was willing to formulate a scheme that could ensure a major source of livelihood for the locals, who otherwise have little scope for employment."
Prasad is now trying to form co-operatives of tribals to undertake mining. "I feel that this alone can take them out of the economic oppression that is the prime factor behind their falling prey to indoctrination by Naxalites."
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