Thursday, February 21, 2008

Maoist depredations : editorial in ET

(the campaign against salwa judum seems to have made some headway given that even the ET (Economic Times) is now advocating against it. )

The Nayagarh Maoist raids are doubtless horrific. But more disturbing is the ease with which the operation to loot arms and ammunition from several police establishments was accomplished. The effectiveness of the attacks carried out a mere 90 km off Bhubaneshwar has exposed the Orissa law-enforcement machinery to be near dysfunctional.Meanwhile, the reported participation of a large number of locals in this dastardly mission indicates the collapse of democratic governance.

The government's failure, in Orissa and other such naxal-affected states, to efficiently deliver essential public goods has been responsible for increasing backwardness among local populations.That has alienated them from the state and made them susceptible to the violent ideology of the Maoists.

Naxal in surgency cannot be contained unless corruption and oppression are eradicated through inclusive development. But crucial developmental activity can really take off when government agencies are able to overcome the hurdle of social violence.Governments need to swiftly redress, among other things, the problem of the poor police-to-populatio n ratio.

The Indian ratio, of reportedly 122 police personnel for every 100,000 residents, is way below the UN-recommended peacetime norm of 222.This ratio for Maoist-struck states is worse. Orissa, with its 99 cops for 100,000 citizens, has since 2005 been reportedly investing heavily to augment its police force. But years of indifference on that score has rendered this initiative inadequate.

The Centre, clearly, needs to put more central forces at the state government's disposal to make good the deficit in the immediate term.Such attempts to beef up security forces must be accompanied with reforms that seek to insulate the Indian police force from unnecessary political interference.

After all, security forces often function as the military arm of local elites. Governments should also refrain from replicating Chhattisgarh' s dangerous Salwa Judum model, which by arming a section of the local population against another (Maoist backed), has created a civil war-like situation.The neutrality of law-enforcement agencies is important if the law they are meant to enforce is to regain its legitimacy.

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