Govt to involve Gandhians in countering Naxals

SEWAGRAM (WARDHA): A new leaf was added to state’s anti-Naxal policy on Sunday when Union minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh declared himself eager to involve Gandhian activists in blunting the rebels’ strategies. Ramesh’s around six-hour discussion with the members of the Sarv Sewa Sangh’s Samta Swaraj Mitra Mandal ‘Nayi Taleem’ meeting hall in Bapu Kutir at Sewagram Ashram pointed to his ministry’s thinking.

Ramesh’s hinted at projects like fast track courts in Naxal districts to resolve legal disputes quickly and roping in a team of paralegal workers to help tribals on critical issues. “We will conduct survey on the lands released and distributed under Vinobha Bhave’s Bhoodan movement and try to find out how to maximize their utilization and bring them to use of tribal population,” he said. Ramesh also sounded keen to form a committee, conduct a survey and analyze how many tribal undertrials were languishing behind bars and under what laws.

Ramesh also decided to meet the district collectors and officials of six districts-Malkangiri (Odisha), Khammam, Vishakhapatnam ( Andhra Pradesh), Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada ( Chhattisgarh)- on October 9 to chalk out a policy with the internally displaced populations at these places. He took the decision after an activist pointed it out.

Ramesh said his party’s intention to take on Naxals went back to 2004 when the common minimum programme was formulated. He referred to his effort in Menda Lekha village in Gadchiroli district in 2011 while in the ministry of environment and forest when the hamlet got sole rights of Bamboo trade that was earlier with forest department. “The gram sabha of that village earned a crore of rupees exercising the right,” said Ramesh. The 58-year-old minister, who dutifully washed his plate after the meal, was keen enough to look around Bapu’s memorabilia even as he listened to activists from different parts of the country and Sewagram share their thoughts on Naxalism.

Ramesh said Naxalism affects 82 districts and in 25 he saw no hope. “In places like Abhujmadh there is no government presence of any level. There are several such zones in the country,” he said. “This is a war of ideology and Gandhian vision should be adopted to counter the Naxals,” said Ramesh. He added that form next year onwards, Naxal affected areas would be earmarked as ‘regions’ rather than ‘districts’. “Most of the affected districts are tribal populated and the fight is based on forested land, produce and mining issues unlike caste factor as in Bihar,” he said.

While welcoming Gandhian activists to join hands, Ramesh ensured he did not shift the burden on them to carry on government’s agenda. “Our objective is common. The tribal communities should get justice and due respect. We want development and dialogue,” he added.

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