Friday, November 24, 2006

Three years later, no reward for villages that shut doors on Naxals

Three years later, no reward for villages that shut doors on Naxals
Vivek Deshpande

NAGPUR, NOVEMBER 23: The state government has not been able to put up an effective counter to Naxalites and now, its efforts on the sidelines also seem headed for failure. Gaonbandi — a village initiative to shut out Naxalites — has shown poor results three years down the line while the recently introduced surrender policy, too, is unlikely to take off. Both measures are stuck for funds even if they outmanoeuvre the red tape.

Of the nearly 324 villages to have declared Gaonbandi for more than three years now, only 112 have got funds — Rs 1 lakh or Rs 2 lakh — for village development.

The first 30 villages to declare gaonbandi have got nothing till date, because “the villages haven’t passed a resolution in the gram sabha that they would not allow Naxalites to enter the village”. One of the stipulations for release of funds is a formal gram sabha resolution.

The movement began in one of these villages in north Gadchiroli, with a local village leader petitioning the police and the administration to help the villages thwart the Naxalite threat against working on government schemes. Responding to their initiative, the government, on recommendation by police officials, decided to reward the villages with Rs 2 lakh each for village development. “These villages are under Naxalite threat due to their gaonbandi initiative, so they haven’t been able to pass the resolutions. That’s why they haven’t been given the money,” an official told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity.

Villagers and anti-Naxal activists, on the other hand, say the delay in funds will only bring back the situation to square one. “The very genesis of Naxalism is lack of development. Now that the villages have shown willingness to shun Naxalites, the government is attaching strings to a scheme which was modelled to be a kind of gratuity aid. If this is the attitude, no village will come forward with gaonbandi,” said tribal activist Paromita Goswami. “In fact, the government should take the various beneficial schemes to the doorstep of these villages and win their support. Instead, it is losing their support by putting conditions,” a senior government official said.

And, for a project meant to show quick results, the official procedure is a rigmarole. Villagers proposing to shut out Naxalites have to a resolution to the local police station which passes it on to the Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO). The SDPO then passes it on to the Superintendent of Police (SP). From the SP, it goes to the District Collector, and from Collector to the Project Officer of the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP). The ITDP then forwards the proposal to the assistant tribal commissioner at Nagpur and from there to the Tribal Commissioner at Nashik for final approval.

The funds route is no less complicated. Once the approval comes through, the sanctioned money goes to the local zilla parishad. The zilla parishad gives it to the local Block Development Officer (BDO), who then passes it on to the gram sabha concerned. Besides, the money is given in two instalments of Rs 1 lakh each.

Officials suggested an easier procedure as the villages were put off by the red tape: eligibility to be decided by a panel comprising the collector, SP and zilla parishad CEO. The idea was okayed but is far from being implemented.

The surrender policy is faring no better. Announced in August last year and now extended for a year, the policy offered Rs 2 lakh for a Naxal Dalam commander, Rs 1 lakh for his deputy, Rs 75,000 for Dalam members, Rs 40,000 for area rakshak (ARD), Rs 25,000 for gram rakshak dal (GRD) members and Rs 5,000 for Sangam members (supporting villagers). So far, only Rs 12 lakh have been spent.

The government had initially allocated Rs 5 crore, but according to Joint Secretary (Home Department) it was a technical provision and was later withdrawn. “The police have to spend from their regular funds,” Deshmukh said.

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