P Chindambaram to review strategy for ‘liberated’ areas

NEW DELHI: The Centre’s new strategy to “clear, hold and develop” Maoist-affected areas — being tried in the Saranda forests — will see its first comprehensive review during home minister P Chidambaram’s visit to Odisha and Jharkhand on Wednesday.

Though Saranda forest area — once the Maoists’ stronghold which is now under full control of security forces — falls in Jharkhand, the strategy to ‘clear’ Red zones by pushing ultras out of it and ‘hold’ it for a substantial period of time for development works is being tested in neighbouring Odisha as well.

Sources said both the states will present their progress reports, consisting of measures to be taken to finetune the strategy as envisaged by the Union rural development ministry in close coordination with the home ministry.

Chidambaram, accompanied by CRPF chief K Vijay Kumar and other senior officials of his ministry, will first visit Bhubaneswar where he will also review inter-state coordination for the ongoing anti-Maoist operations. He will then go to Ranchi where he will review progress of the strategy in the Saranda forest area.

The ministry has sent two CRPF battalions (nearly 2,000 men) to Jharkhand for deployment in the Saranda forest area — comprising 56 villages of six panchayats with a population of about 36,000 tribals — so that the security forces can hold this area till all development works see substantial progress.

CRPF will keep its personnel in 20 identified camps to secure the area for a longer period, unlike in the past when security forces generally used to leave the Naxal areas after clearing it — making it difficult for local administration to do development work under threat of Maoists’ comeback.

“One more CRPF battalion (nearly 1,000 men) will be sent to the state for this purpose soon. Besides, the Centre will also help the state in raising India Reserve Battalion (IRB) — having nearly 1,000 personnel — by January 2012,” said a senior official.

The action plan for the Saranda forest area, finalised by the rural development ministry, includes major activities like distribution of solar lanterns, bicycles and transitors and installing hand pumps for drinking water under the protection of central paramilitary forces.

Other development activities under various schemes like Integrated Action Plan (IAP), Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and Pradhan Matri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) will go on simultaneously.

The Centre will replicate the plan in other Naxal-affected areas of the country in due course. “Jungle Mahal area of West Bengal may be the next to experiment this model, provided the security personnel dominate it by overthrowing Maoists,” said an official.

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