India sweetens Maoist surrender deals
Maoist militants who have grown disaffected with life as an armed insurgent now have an additional reason to lay down their weapons. On March 4th, the Indian government announced a dramatic increase in the monetary compensation for Communist Party of India (Maoist) cadres who put the path of bloodshed behind them and return to the mainstream. ”
All top Maoists, including members of their politburo or commanders of state, zonal or district committees, will receive a monetary package worth Rs. 2.5 lakh ($4,600), while junior level cadres of this outlawed organisation will receive a one-time package worth Rs. 1.5 lakh ($2,760), when they surrender,” said Rajiv Sharma, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The offer goes into effect on April 1st. Speaking to Khabar South Asia, he highlighted the extent of the increase. “This is nearly 25 times more for the rebel leaders and 15 times more for junior cadres than what was being granted to them until now,” Sharma said. “In addition, the surrendered rebels will receive an additional monthly package worth Rs. 3,000 ($55) every month – a three-fold raise from the current amount given to them – for a period of three years from the date of surrender.”
The funds will come from the MHA’s Security Related Expenditure programme. Money for surrendered arms In addition to the payment they will receive for surrendering, defecting militants will also be compensated for surrendered equipment, an MHA official explained. The amount will depend on the type of weapon. “A Maoist rebel laying down a light machine gun will receive an additional Rs. 30,000 ($550), while he/she will get an additional Rs. 25,000 ($460) for surrendering a sniper rifle or rocket-propelled grenade,” said Sanjay Agarwal, a security adviser at the ministry. “They will also get an additional Rs. 15,000 ($275) for laying down any weapon in the AK series; Rs. 5,000 ($90) for a high frequency communication radio system; and Rs. 3,000 ($55) for a revolver or pistol, irrespective of whether the weapon has been looted from the security forces or obtained from any other place,” he said.
Besides approving the MHA’s new surrender-and-rehabilitation policy, the Finance Ministry has also agreed to double the fund for community policing from the present Rs. 500,000 ($9,200) for every district annually to Rs. 1m ($18,400) per year to instil confidence among locals. Will the offer work? Observers in Maoist-affected areas say the compensation package is likely to attract some segments of the insurgency. “Many poor villagers have joined the outlawed group for want of money, and this section of the rebels is likely to respond to the incentives,” said Omprakash Choudhary, collector and district magistrate of Dantewada, a Maoist hotbed in Chhattisgarh. ”
Already, we have received feelers from 12-15 ultras expressing their desire to surrender.” In the past, he told Khabar, the effectiveness of such programmes has differed from state to state. For instance, “many rebels from across the country have travelled to Andhra Pradesh to surrender because the government there offers much higher incentives”. According to Choudhary, the appeal is likely to be broader now because the insurgents have been suffering setbacks.
“This time, it is likely to be different as the Maoists are already on the run and this will provide a good opportunity to many of them to discard violence and return to the mainstream.” Some, however, caution against overly high expectations. Speaking from Jharkand, the founder of a student organisation said the impact could be limited to rank-and-file guerrillas. “The incentives will only lure those in the lower rungs of the organisation to surrender,” said Surya Singh Besra, who is founder-secretary of the All-Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU). “The senior leaders, for whom Maoism is an ideology, will not respond to these offers.”
Maoist aide nabbed for murder
BHUBANESWAR: Nuapada police on Wednesday nabbed a Maoist supporter among the villagers of Pathpani, who have been appealing to the district administration to relocate them in another village for fear of Maoists. Police said they arrested Rupchan Majhi, a farmer of the village, for helping Maoists kill a sikhya sahayak, a month ago. Rupchan had joined the villagers in their appeal.
“Rupchan was present with the Maoists when the teacher was killed by them. We suspect his role. He was caught during a combing operation,” said SP (Nuapada) Umashankar Das. After the incident, around 250 villagers deserted the village fearing the Maoists. They are now staying in their relatives’ houses in the three neighbouring villages of Kutpali, Ghabra and Kamkeda. They are determined not to return. Maoists killed Dunguripali primary school teacher Chaitanya Majhi (32) recently. He had joined two months ago. After killing him Maoists threw his body in Pathpani forest.
No trace of six killed by Maoists in Jharkhand
Ranchi, March 14 (IANS) The police are yet to find the bodies of “six criminals” who were reportedly executed by Maoists in a Jharkhand forest, an official said Thursday. Three rebels were injured in a shootout with the search team. Maoist rebels reportedly held a kangaroo court Tuesday near Manmaroo village in West Singhbhum district, 190 km from here, and executed “six criminals” accused of killing two villagers March 2.
The criminals had allegedly looted the belongings of the villagers and later killed them. The police team was sent to look for the six bodies Thursday morning. “In the shootout, three to four guerrillas were injured. The police recovered two country-made pistols, mobile phones and live cartridges…” Arun Singh, deputy inspector general of police, Kolhan region, told IANS. “Right now, we cannot confirm the killing of six people. When police team will return, then we will be able to say anything based on their input,” Singh said. Maoists are active in 18 of the 24 districts of the state.
The Saranda Business Plan
About a month ago I wrote about the model Saranda Action Plan in the West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. This is one of rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s pet projects that seek to link security with development. A hearts-and-minds turnaround, as it were, in an 850 sq. km forested area of Maoist influence. Now for the other side of the coin. Are such plans, often riding intense security sweeps, for the benefit of the forgotten and development-starved indigenous people in India’s fast-depleting forests? Or are these merely eyewash for the benefit of clearing the way for metals, mining and power generation interests?
Indeed, a senior police officer of Jharkhand recently discussed with me this Catch-22 of policing, not just in the state of his jurisdiction, but also in neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Orissa, affected by similar rebellion. “It may seem that our operations are done to benefit business, but that is not the purpose with which the police plan operations against Maoists.” Quite often, though, it may seem that way. Businesses rush, as do their sponsor governments, to take up opportunities even where conflict is raging or, even if reduced, far from concluded. (This is vastly different from conflict having erupted around existing businesses, such as Steel Authority of India Ltd’s (SAIL’s) existing iron ore mines in Saranda. Or, say, NMDC Ltd’s mines in southern Chhattisgarh.)
This opens up business to accusations of colluding with the state, and also be liable for human rights violations that accrue from such conflict. In the context of Saranda, this applies to both Anaconda and Anaconda II anti-Maoist security operations, the second ongoing. Moreover, it goes against norms of business ethics and corporate social responsibility, besides norms of constitutional governance. The latest to walk into such controversy is JSW Steel Ltd, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), and SAIL.
This is on account of approvals granted to operate mining leases in Saranda. These were given by the forest advisory committee (FAC) of the environment and forests ministry during its meetings in January and February, along with several other clearances for minor road, power transmission and hydroelectric projects in other parts of the country. Even, mining projects in other parts of Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh; but this column already brimmeth, et cetera. JSPL received approval for diversion of 512.43ha (nearly 1,270 acres) of forest land for an iron ore lease in Saranda forests. JSW received an okay to mine iron and manganese ores, and so use 998.7ha (about 2,470 acres). A subsidiary of SAIL received approval—an additional mining lease—to cast for iron ore over nearly 211 hectares (about 520 acres).
A reading of the minutes of these FAC meetings reveals an attitude which directly plays into accusations by both pro-Maoist and utterly non-Maoist critics of government-business joint ventures in conflict zones. The qualifiers for all three projects are nearly identical, but the one for JSPL (file number 8-60/2010-FC) goes the extra mile in justification. “The committee noted the conflict of interest between conservation of natural resources and need for economic activity. The Saranda is rich in forest and wildlife and at the same time has rich mineral deposits. Taking a view purely in the interest of conservation or on the other hand in the interest of economic activity will amount to taking an extreme side.” So it took the side of economic activity with palliative stretch.
“The committee felt the need to take a view wherein economic activity may be permitted to the extent possible and at the same time conserve the natural resources and take sufficient effective mitigative measures.” For all three leases such measures range from not blasting for ore at night to ensuring compensatory afforestation. (Although in one case FAC noted that land has not yet been identified for afforestation and some “found” to be under control of “left-wing extremists”.) Lighting arrangements would need to be proper “to reduce the glare to open sky and thus to facilitate the migration path of avifauna”—bats, birds. Siltation and discharge should not affect nearby river systems.
It leaves monitoring to the state government, usually a manoeuvrable entity. State government agencies okay such deals in the first place. For me the killer app of “sufficient effective mitigative measures” refers to the two Jindal projects: “The user agency and other lessee will celebrate wildlife week to create awareness amongst their staff and transporters for ecological and wildlife conservation of Saranda…” Read through such a prism, the Saranda Action Plan can indeed read like the Saranda Business Plan.
Jhumra women’s wing chief arrested
RANCHI/HAZARIBAG: Police on Wednesday arrested six CPI (Maoist) members, including a senior woman cadre, from Latehar and Hazaribagh districts on Wednesday. The woman arrested in Hazaribagh has been identified as Geeta alias Kalpana, chief of the Maoists’ Jhumra Zone women wing of. The zone consists of Hazaribag, Bokaro and Giridih districts. The police also arrested her aide Vijay Tudu. Hazaribag SP Manoj Kaushik said Geeta was arrested near Konar Dam on the border between Hazaribag and Bokaro districts. A two-wheeler used by Tudu and bearing the registration number JH 02 E- 8852 was also recovered along with Rs 40,000 in cash, some incriminating documents and Maoist posters and banners.
The police, however, did not find any arms or ammunition in their possession. Kaushik said: “Geeta is respected by all the rebels of the region. She has tremendous organizing skills and that is why she was heading the wing, which plays a significant role in bringing together the women folk in the rural belt close to the organization.” The SP said it was under her leadership the wing recently celebrate International Women’s Day with a number of functions organized since March 8. Their plan was to continue the celebrations until March 15.
Kaushik added that Geeta, aged about 40 years, is a veteran Maoist and has earlier served the rebel squad in various capacities before being appointed as the chief of the women wing about five years ago. “She is wanted in several Maoist-related cases in Bokaro district, but there was no case pending against her in Hazaribag,” he added. In an unrelated incident, Latehar police arrested four suspected Maoists and recovered 32 SIM cards, fake identity cards, pen drives and ideological literature from them.
Latehar SP Kranti Kumar said, based on the information provided by the Maoists, the police also recovered four live can bombs and cartridges from Katia jungle – where 13 people were killed in an encounter with rebels in January. Of the four rebels arrested, two are from Bihar and have worked closely with the Maoists’ central committee member Arvindji alias Dev Kumar Singh, the mastermind of the Latehar ambush. “It is a major achievement and we expect to get more information about their activities in Jharkhand and other states,” said Kumar.
PIL demands speedy trial for Naxal suspects
NAGPUR: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed on Wednesday before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court seeking judicial intervention and relief into the various aspects of Naxal undertrials.
The petitioner, Soma Sen is a member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights and associate professor of English Department at the Nagpur University. She is engaged in social work for more than two decades. The PIL deals with the plight of the several farmers and other residents of Naxal-affected Gadchiroli who had been nabbed during various operations launched by the government forces in the district.
Following their arrest, the petitioner has claimed that the trials are often delayed on numbers of pretexts including not providing escort guards to enable undertrials to remain present before the court. The petitioner has also claimed that delayed trial of the victims has been aggravated by the violation of the fundamental rights of the prisoners and other laws pertaining to present them before the court. Sen has also prayed before the court to discourage videoconferencing facilities which do not allow the undertrials to have access to their lawyers.