As if his mishandling of internal security were not enough, Home Minister Shivraj Patil wants to mess up with economic policy as well.
The chap happens to be the head of a Group of Ministers (GoM), which was constituted a year ago. The objective of setting up the GoM was to discuss the contentious restrictions on starting new projects and the issues related to the rehabilitation of displaced tribals and ensuring benefit to them from new projects. According to a news report, Patil has succeeded in convincing the GoM his own Ministry's?viewpoint that displacement resulting from large projects, even if they are in public interest, causes an ?irreparable? damage to tribal culture and convert them from land managers to daily wagers.?
He seems to have swallowed the fairy tales peddled by Luddites, jholawallahs and assorted Leftists hook, line and sinker?the fairy tales which depict the tribals as the inhabitants of an idyllic paradise, unpolluted from the corruptions of industrialisation. The facts like dismal human development indices (HDIs)?education levels, infant mortality rate, etc?are either ignored or, worse, cited as the cause of development. In the case of the draft tribal policy, the latter is true. The policy does mention the need to improve the HDIs of tribals. It says, ?The out-of-school children, school dropout rate and literacy rates among tribal girls are among the lowest for different social groups in India.?
It is the prescribed policy framework that is problematic. It is not difficult to see the reason. Thanks to the ruling United Progressive Alliance's(UPA?s) flirtation with the politically correct, the lunatic fringe of the Left has moved towards the centre; often it is close to the centre, as in this case. Unsurprisingly, the GoM's?draft policy had stated that projects that lead to displacement of 50,000 people, majority of whom are tribals, should not be undertaken. The (Home) Ministry had also said that big projects also cause a huge damage to natural flora and fauna, 63 per cent of which is in 50 tribal districts of India. The new policy, if notified, can mean end of road for big mining projects in tribal areas, which cover 15 per cent of geographical area of the country. Starting projects like Pasco Steel in tribal belt of Orissa, which has caused a lot of resentment, would become difficult once the policy comes into force.?
If the Home Minister'srecommendations are accepted, all hopes of tribals? uplift will die. The only beneficiaries would be Naxalites, who would get more recruits for their nefarious purposes. In any case, Patil is reluctant to check them. The result is that their influence is increasing and they are becoming more audacious by the day.
The Naxalites? recent attacks on June 29 and July 16 in which they killed dozens of members of the specially-trained Greyhound force not only underlines their fighting preparedness and firepower but also their resolve to take on the state of India. According to Orissa police chief Gopal Nanda, the firing took place near Alampetta village when the elite Greyhound force was sailing to Chirakonda across the Balimela reservoir on the border with Andhra Pradesh for a joint operation against the Naxalites.
Audacious as the attack was, it was not the first one; there are vast areas in our country which are completely under the control of Leftwing militants, and their terror is also felt in many more territories of central and eastern states. This fact is well known. On the face of it, the UPA Government is committed to fighting the Naxal menace. On April 15, 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, ?There can be no political compromise with terror. No inch conceded. No compassion shown? There are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. There is no cause, root or branch, that can ever justify the killing of innocent people. No democratic government can tolerate the use of violence against innocent people and against the functionaries of a duly established democratic government.?
One would have thought that the entire machinery would have been galvanized by the Prime Minister'sunequivocal opposition to Leftwing violence. But then in the wonder that is India, the Home Minister happens to be Shivraj Patil. Within a fortnight of the Prime Minister'spledge to fight Maoism, Patil said that the Naxalites are ?our brothers and sisters?. He also said, ?The government is not interested in using weapons [against Naxalites].?
Patil has kept his word. Therefore, as a news report said, ?The Home Ministry continues to sit on the proposal on much-awaited Special Anti-Naxal Force (SAF), on similar pattern of Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh Police, to counter Left-extremism which is being seen as a ?virus? engulfing nearly 13 states of the country.?
The Central Reserve Police Force, which was designated as the nodal agency to check anti-insurgency, had immediately started work for creation of SAF after the Prime Minister had asked for it in December. An in-principle clearance was given for the setting-up of 10 battalions (nearly 10,000 troops) to be led by an Inspector General. The CRPF submitted the proposal a few months ago to the Union Home Ministry. But Patil and his officials have not sent the proposal to the Union Cabinet for approval.
A minister responsible for internal security disobeying the chief political executive over a serious matter?is such eventuality imaginable in any other democracy? Patil seems determined to be known as the worst minister of the UPA regime.
His incompetence is indeed breathtaking and all-encompassing.
(The author works with The Political and Business Daily.)