New Delhi: Forty-four districts in the country are no longer under the influence of Maoists or have negligible presence and most of the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is now confined only to 30 worst-hit districts.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba said the geographical spread of the LWE violence has shrunk significantly in the last four years due to a multi-pronged strategy involving security and development-related measures. "There is no influence or negligible presence of LWE in 44 districts and most of the Naxal violence is confined now only to 30 worst-affected districts," he said in an interview.
Gauba said significant features of the anti-Naxal policy were zero tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities so that benefits of new roads, bridges, telephone towers reach the poor and the vulnerable in the affected areas.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had categorised 106 districts in 10 states as LWE-affected districts. These districts are covered under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme for the purpose of reimbursement of security-related expenditure like transportation, communication, hiring of vehicles, stipend to surrendered Maoists, construction of infrastructure for forces etc. This categorisation provided the basis for focused deployment of resources - both security and development related.
Over the last few years, a number of districts have been carved into smaller districts. This has resulted in the geographical area of the 106 SRE districts being spread over 126 districts. The MHA has recently undertaken a comprehensive exercise in consultation with the states to review the affected districts in order to ensure that deployment of forces and resources is in sync with the changed ground reality.
Accordingly, 44 districts have been excluded and 8 new districts have been added to the list of SRE districts as a pre-emptive step to check any attempts by Maoists to enhance area of influence. Therefore, the total number of SRE districts now stands at 90, another official said.
Similarly, the number of worst LWE-hit districts has also come down to 30 from 35. There has been a substantial improvement in the LWE scenario in the last four years. Incidents of violence have seen a 20 per cent decline with a 34 per cent reduction in related deaths in 2017 as compared to 2013, the official said.
Among the 90 districts, 32 districts have reported no violence in last few years while only 58 districts have reported violence in 2017. At the same time, certain new districts have emerged as the focus area where security forces were deployed with vigour after carrying out a review of the overall deployment of security forces.
In order to counter Maoist efforts to expand their influence in tribal areas at the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, three districts of Kerala have been included in the list of SRE districts, despite the fact that there is no violence in the new districts and the move is pre-emptive.
The revised categorisation is a more realistic representation of the actual LWE scenario, the official said. As part of the redeployment strategy, greater strength has been given in new areas by providing additional mine protected vehicles, bullet-proof jackets and extensive use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and helicopters.
"There has been concerted efforts to fill up the security vacuum," the official said. The central government is also providing Rs 1,000 crore as 100 per cent grant to 35 LWE-affected districts under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP).
The utilisation of the fund is decided by a committee headed by the District Collector and consisting of the Superintendent of Police of the District Forest Officer.
The district-level committee has flexibility to spend the amount on development schemes of their choice based on the need of the district. The committee draws up plans which includes concrete proposals for public infrastructure and services such as school buildings, anganwadi centres, primary health centres, drinking water supply, village roads, electric lights in public places such as PHCs and schools, etc.
An inter-ministeral meeting, held recently under the chairmanship of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, has also allowed the state governments to give environmental clearance up to 40 hectares of forest land in LWE-hit areas for carrying out development works.