Thursday, April 3, 2008

Analysis: India told 'dry-up Maoist funds'

NEW DELHI, April 2 (UPI) -- A top-level Indian commission has asked the government in Delhi to set up a new agency to combat extortion and economic offenses to help dry up the funding sources of armed Maoist guerrillas and other extremists.

"An effective anti-extortion and economic wing that can curtail if not totally dry up funding sources of Left-oriented extremism has to be constituted," said the seventh report of the second Administrative Reforms Commission. The report, titled "Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution: Friction to Fusion," was presented to the government last month.

"Clamping down on the sources of funding for left extremists is an area that requires urgent attention. The extensive contractor-transporter-extremist nexus and its links with illegal mining and collection of forest produce in the entire region affected by Maoist violence yields huge funds for the insurgents," said Veerappa Moily, a veteran politician from the ruling Congress Party and the chairman of the commission, which was set up on Aug. 31, 2005.

Maoist movements in India like other extremist campaigns raise money through extortion. The rebels who have been waging an armed struggle against the state mobilize huge funds through extortion from local people and from contractors working on government projects in the insurgency-hit regions of the country.

They also realize funds through forest and mine operations.

The report said one way to ensure that development funds don't reach the militants is by entrusting these works temporarily to organizations like the Border Road Organization, a road construction company raised by the Indian army, and other governmental agencies that can execute infrastructure development works directly.

While agreeing with the government's 14-point long-term strategy to deal with Maoist rebels, which emphasizes negotiation with the extremists, the commission said there is a strong case for getting back to basics in the matter of administrative monitoring and supervision.

"The system of periodic official inspections and review of organizational performances needs to be revitalized. It must be recognized that a major reason for such practices falling in disuse in disturbed areas is the apprehension of senior government functionaries about their personal safety while on tour," Moily said.

The commission advised the government in its report that the need to provide security to senior administrative and technical officials while on tour should be taken into account when working out requirements for security forces in the areas affected by serious violence.

It said the nexus between illegal mining or forest contractors and extremists, which provides the financial support to the rebels, needs to be broken. The commission has recommended that state governments in affected areas should set up special anti-extortion and anti-money-laundering teams with the police to do so.

The Maoist insurgents strongly oppose large infrastructure development projects because they can help security personnel to easily move from one place to another to carry out offensives against guerrillas. In many cases, rebels forced the local administrations to award infrastructure development projects to contractors and transporters of their choice in order to raise funding to buy sophisticated arms. They also encourage mining and transport mafias for illegal mining and transportation of minerals from forests and in return receive large sums. The insurgency-hit state of Chhattisgarh is tops among the Maoist-affected states where incidents of such nexus have been reported.

"Maoist rebellion is currently posing serious security challenges in different parts of India through exploitation and sense of deprivation and consequent discontent of marginalized sections of community," said A. B. Mahapatra, director of the Center for Asian Strategic Studies, a non-governmental think-tank that studies conflict management.

Maoist insurgents are described as Naxalites in India, after the small town of Naxalbari, where their movement was born in the 1970s.

India's Interior Ministry says it has dealt with Naxalism with a greater degree of sensitivity and with a variety of non-police methods in tandem with the conventional methods of law enforcement with greater success than in many countries.

Depressed wages and inadequate employment opportunities in tribal areas of Maoist-hit eastern states are cited as major causes for tribal discontent. Maoist rebels gain support among the poorest and most deprived tribal communities as they raise their voice. In order to remove this shortcoming, the federal government has enacted legislation called the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, under which initially 200 backward districts mostly in the rebellion-affected regions have been identified to provide them job opportunities.

This program has now been extended to all 604 districts of the country, but the commission said given the heterogeneity and geographical dispersal of the backward districts, implementation is a difficult and challenging task. Its report makes a slew of recommendations for ensuring effective implementation in militancy-hit districts. "Those measures, if implemented, would address both the problems of inadequate employment opportunities and depressed wages," said V. Ramachandran, a member of the commission.

Capacity building among government officials in the tribal areas has been one of the main concerns on which the commission deliberated in detail. It said personnel management has been a neglected aspect of administration in tribal areas. The officers usually looked upon posting and deployment in these areas as punishment and either worked half-heartedly or remained absent for long periods from their place of duty.

"The fact that the phenomenon of Left extremism is prevalent and is in fact indicates that much more remains to be done. It is necessary that the approach to the problem must be balanced and multipronged," said Mahendra Ved, an expert on Maoist violence

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