NEW DELHI: Apart from apparent security lapses on the ground, it was glaring intelligence failure that led to the May 25th Darbha massacre in Chhattisgarh. Security forces, however, express helplessness in plugging this gap blaming it on tardy pace and misplaced focus of development in Naxal-affected areas.
Sources say, due to slow pace of development forces have not been able to move to new areas to make way for state’s administrative influence and the development plan has focused largely on roads even as tribals value healthcare far more.
This strategic gap and mismatch in aspirations of the locals and government’s deliverance has led to lack of trust between anti-Naxal forces and tribals leading to failure of human intelligence — the key resource in fight against Maoists.
“There is no doubt that our human intelligence is poor in Naxal-affected areas. Maoists have better intelligence than us. Had the forces had a good network among locals in Bastar, the Darbha massacre would never have happened,” said a senior CRPF official adding that there was indeed input of Maoists’ movement in the area but no specific intelligence.
But it would be difficult to connect with locals without heeding to their needs. Government has already accepted that most Naxal-affected states have failed to spend allocated funds for development. For instance, in Chhattisgarh, only two of the 30 road projects sanctioned in the Naxal-hit areas had been completed till last year. Close to half were pending, while rest didn’t even start, said sources.
To make matters worse, despite all the spending government is not giving tribals what they need the most: healthcare. To circumvent laxity in states’ spending, the Centre had launched Integrated Action Plan (IAP) in 2010 to develop Naxal-affected areas through Centrally-sponsored schemes. This was part of what was unofficially called the Operation Green Hunt, where forces were supposed first clear an area, establish their hold and then government would initiate development to wean away tribals from Maoists’ clutches.
Though comparatively successful, IAP’s focus too has been more strategic than welfare-oriented. Close to 50% of funds allocated under the IAP has been for roads, while less than 3% is earmarked for healthcare. States, as usual, have been poor performers on healthcare. In Chhattisgarh, the state has spent 35% of allocated central funds on roads, but only 16% on healthcare. In several Naxal-hit districts in the state, spending has been nil due to various factors that includes reluctance of government doctors to work there.
“In Chhattisgarh’s interiors you don’t develop network by spending money. Tribals don’t take money. They see who is working for them. You give them medicines they will be yours. In most districts either NGOs or Maoists themselves provide healthcare through regular camps. So why should villagers give us information?” asks an officer posted in Chhattisgarh.
Also, the clear-hold-develop policy has failed as development has not caught pace with forces. “It’s not easy because of threats from Naxals to contractors, corruption and red tape. So forces have not been able to move to new areas and hold them as envisaged earlier,” the officer adds.