By Sanjay K Bissoyi:
Starting from ‘Garibi Hatao’ (Poverty Alleviation) to ‘Poverty is a state of mind’, Antyodaya (‘serving the last man in the queue’) to ‘Sabka saath, sabka Vikaas’ (Collective efforts, inclusive growth), they all look like poll platitudes. Since Independence, many governments and political leaders have come and gone but nothing has changed in India’s infamous ‘Red Corridor’. In the metros, people run miles in the morning to burn fat while nature’s own people, the ‘Tribals’, also run miles in the morning, but in search of a meal. And this is the difference between India’s poorest countryside and it’s affluent cities.
The over 40-year-old Maoist rebellion started due to mass poverty and conditions seem to have worsened with New Delhi’s adoption of corporate neoliberalism. Industrial revolutions, whether European, Russian or Chinese, had led to in one way or another the expropriation of land, forest, river and other natural resources at the cost of poor peasants, and tribal communities that depend on these natural resources definitely suffered.
This is clearly visible today in the Indian economy’s neo-liberal phase which started in the 1990s. For nearly two centuries, the British ruled over and exploited India. During that particular period, the Indian elite was somehow able to maximise its wealth. After Independence, the capitalist class of India carried forward the rapacious legacy of British colonialism against this 8.6 percent of its population (Census 2011). Successive governments including multinational companies have been grabbing mineral rich lands of the 104 million people. This process has impoverished, dispossessed and exiled tribals in their own land and has also driven them to join the Maoist movement, which claims to stand for their well-being and for addressing their grievances.
The exploitation of tribals by the government officials and police is rampant. There is large-scale corruption at the grassroots in the states like Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. And the poor tribals are the worst victims of corruption. This gives strength to the Maoist insurgency. Whatever is said about the public distribution system for food security, or the much talked about developmental works, their performance has not been satisfactory in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, for example. There are schools, but there is nobody to teach. This one sentence sums up the education system.
According to a report in the Times of India titled ‘Diseases, not Maoists, kill most CRPF men in Red zone’, “More CRPF men have died due to malaria and heart attack than have fallen to Maoist attacks in the 106 Naxal-affected districts in the country.”
This shows that the government is not providing good health care even to security personnel in Naxal-affected areas, forget about the common man. Sometimes, the media reports police brutalities. But rape, loot etc. happens all the time under the nose of these very security forces. Recently, there was a report of the gang-rape of 13 innocent women in Basaguda block of Chhattisgarh by police.
Maoists and their brutal attacks are not justifiable at all. Violence in any form is condemnable. However, the State should also start engaging with the people. Economic disparity and growing distance between the poor and the rich needs to be reduced to weaken Naxalism and to eventually annihilate it. The downtrodden still face discrimination from upper caste people. The government needs to make sure that tribals enjoy equal participation in the electoral process, especially for contesting in the polls. They must pledge to stop environmental degradation. A clean and safe environment is everyone’s right. Rehabilitation and resettlement of lands is a very big issue and there is a need to mitigate grievances regarding this with effective measures. Schemes like MGNREGA should not be sidelined as they generate employment and increase wages for the deprived sections of our society.
The government should initiate a practice through which rebels and the state can work out a solution. Once the socio-economic conditions of the tribals improve Maoism in India will vanish. For this, India needs good governance in every sector without any loopholes. The state should tackle the Naxal menace as a socio-political issue instead of a law and order problem.