Sucheta Dalal :Blast from the Past
Sucheta Dalal

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Blast from the Past  

June 2, 2010

The Maharashta government’s strategy of blaming industry for the Naxal menace is bound to backfire

Maharashtra home minister RR Patil once again raked up the issue of industry funding secessionists, 13 years after the government had accused Tata Tea and Williamson Magor of funding terror in the North-East and even arrested an officer for paying the hospitalisation bills of Pranati Deka, an ULFA leader. Mr Patil accuses the mining industry of providing ‘financial muscle’ to the Naxal movement in the state. Is this true? Certainly, but it is the failure of the state government that forces industry to ‘buy peace’ to do business by paying terror groups.

Terrorism does not thrive where there is development. Six decades after independence, the surge in the secessionist movement shows the State’s neglect of infrastructure, health and education in the Naxal-infested regions. It is corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who gobble up funds allocated for backward area development and it is also they who give away lucrative mining rights to industrialists, making it tempting for them to pay Naxal leaders to do business. The foolish strategy of blaming industry backfired then, as it will now. The Indian Merchants’ Chamber has already objected to RR Patil’s foot-in-the-mouth statements.

An industry source says: If Mr Patil spends time at Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts of Maharashtra (one of our most progressive states), he will realise that they don’t even know who he is. The Naxals have a regular army with a parallel chain of command and a separate administration, which is headed by a ‘prime minister’ and a regular council of ministers. Development is not about filling a few government jobs but taking real economic development and affordable education and healthcare to those regions. The tragedy of the people is that the Naxals too will not allow development, because prosperity is guaranteed to erode their local support base.

Mr Patil, the guardian minister of the state, also admitted that “development of the affected places needs to be taken up on a priority basis…” Well, 60 years after independence, when infrastructure in Maharashtra’s cities is crumbling due to relentless gouging by the State, it will be interesting to see how Mr Patil plans to put his words into action.
Sucheta Dalal

-- Sucheta Dalal