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How to wean AP youth away from Maoists
D Suresh in Hyderabad
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April 17, 2005 15:20 IST

Against the backdrop of growing Naxalite (Maoist) violence, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has created a novel scheme to wean rural youth away from the extremist influence by providing them a wide range of employment opportunities.

Taking advantage of the removal of the ban and restrictions on their frontal organisations, Naxalite groups in the state are said to be spreading their network and embarking on a recruitment spree.

In a bid to check the influence of Maoist extremists on the youth -- particularly in remote tribal areas -- the state government has prepared an action plan to augment employment avenues for rural youth.

"Under this special programme, we have already provided employment opportunities to over 1,000 people. The objective is to bring another 50,000 youth under the purview of the scheme in the next six months," official sources told PTI.

A separate wing called Interior Development Department has been constituted, under the direct supervision of Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, to formulate special employment schemes for the youth in remote Naxalite-affected areas of the state.

In the initial phase of the programme, launched discreetly without any fanfare, each district will be allotted Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million) with an initial target to train 400 youth in a wide range of areas covering skilled and semi-skilled sectors.

The process begins with identifying four people from each of the Naxalite-affected village and providing them training and self-employment opportunities in areas ranging from driving light and heavy vehicles to getting trained as professional electricians and technicians.

The Youth Employment Societies -- YES -- have been created in 18 districts in Andhra Pradesh, out of a total of 23, which are affected by extremist activity.

A novel feature of these societies is that social workers, retired officials and local industrialists are made executive members while the concerned district superintendent of police acts as the convener.

The Interior Development Department functions as an apex body to monitor the progress of employment programmes with a senior IAS and an IPS officer directly reporting to the Chief Minister.

"About 100 villages are being identified in each district and each training batch comprises 100 youth," sources in the Chief Minister's Office said.

Over the years, Naxalite organisations have been able to achieve a considerable hold over tribal-dominated and remote areas and attract the youth into their fold.

The inability of government agencies and the political leadership to reach out to these deprived and disadvantageous sections of society has created a sense of alienation among them for decades.

"Our government is focussed on tackling the extremist problem from a socio-economic angle. It is with this commitment that a programme to provide employment and training opportunities for rural youth has been taken up to wean them away from the influence of Left-wing extremism," sources said.

One of the facilities being extended to these youth groups is arranging institutional loans for buying vehicles.

"Our intention is not to use the rural youth as informers or to make them fight Naxalism. The aim of this programme is to provide employment opportunities to them," sources said.

"The programme is yielding desired results. For instance, in Cuddapah district, 162 out of 500 youth trained have been selected by the army," sources said.

"A tie-up with Dr Reddy Laboratories has helped over 60 per cent of youth trained by the Nalgonda district administration to get employed," they said.

The employment initiative comes against the backdrop of setbacks to the peace talks initiated by the state government following the Maoist organisations pulling out of the dialogue process, protesting 'continuing fake police encounters'.

Since January, Naxalites have killed 91 people, including 12 policemen.

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