Centre proposes Unified Command to fight Naxals

Independent Media

In a bid to give a sharp edge to anti-Naxal operations, the Union government on Wednesday asked Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal, worst affected by Maoist violence, to set up a Unified Command to carry out anti-Naxal operations.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters after a meeting of Chief Ministers of the Naxal-affected States that the proposed Unified Command would be headed by the four States' Chief Secretaries,

The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Unified Command will have a retired Major General as a member. The four States were asked to appoint an Inspector-General-rank police officer to take care of anti-Naxal operations; and appoint an IG (CRPF) as IG (Operations) for that State to work in close coordination with IG (Anti-Naxal operations) of that State.

Assam and Jammu and Kashmir have Unified Commands in place, headed by respective Chief Ministers.

The Centre also offered more helicopters, logistical support and intelligence sharing to the States to fight the Maoist menace. It sanctioned about 16,000 additional Special Police Officers, taking the total number of such posts to about 30,000. It also decided to fund the establishment or strengthening of 400 police stations in the affected districts at the rate of Rs. 2 crore a police station on 80:20 basis over two years.

The States were asked to set up an empowered group, chaired by Member-Secretary, Planning Commission, to modify the norms and guidelines to implement development schemes having regard to the local needs and conditions in the affected districts. It was decided to improve road connectivity in 34 worst affected districts. A number of roads and bridges are proposed to be included at a cost of Rs. 950 crore by the Road Transport and Highways Ministry.

The Chief Ministers were told that the Planning Commission was considering a Special Development Plan for the affected districts with focus on primary education, healthcare, drinking water and road connectivity.

“Consultations have been held with the State governments and it is expected that the plan will be placed before the National Development Council shortly for approval,'' the Home Minister said. “There was complete unanimity on the Centre's approach of development and police action. All the Chief Ministers and the Governor were positive in their approach, fully cooperative and committed to work together to deal with the Maoist menace. In medium to long term, we can overcome the challenge of left wing extremism.''

The decisions were taken in the light of experience gained in the last six months, Mr. Chidambaram said.

The meeting was attended by Chief Ministers of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Maharashtra, West Bengal Health Minister and Jharkhand Governor. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A. K. Antony were also present.


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