Indian state seeks $1b to fight Maoists

An Indian state seen as a bastion of an increasingly deadly Maoist revolt said Saturday it was seeking one billion dollars to counter the left-wing insurgency with a development surge.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh told federal and state planners that the funds would be spent to rapidly build infrastructure and improve social conditions in the worst-hit districts of the troubled central Indian state. “We have submitted a scheme totalling 45.5 billion rupees (one billion dollars) for seven districts widely affected by left-wing extremism and I hope its sanction will be accorded soon,” he told the National Development Council. Chhattisgarh says the insurgency has taken roots in 13 of the impoverished state’s 19 districts.

Additional “special assistance should also be made available to the six other districts in affected by the Maoist menace,” the chief minister told the New Delhi meeting attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Some 80 percent of the state’s 21.7 million population live in abject poverty, according to government figures.

State authorities told AFP in May that up to 1,300 “combat-ready” Maoists were present in Chhattisgarh where they hold sway in 45,000 square kilometres (17,374 square miles) of forests. The guerrillas in Chhattisgarh have recently killed scores of policemen in some of the revolt-riven districts at the heart of what is known as India’s “Red Corridor.”The massacres have touched off a national debate about the need for “hearts and minds” efforts in insurgency-hit states to accompany a nationwide security offensive launched last year.

Chief minister Singh, who belongs to India’s main opposition BJP party, also accused federal mining firms of siphoning off Chhattisgarh’s minerals without properly compensating the state government and spending on local development.Chhattisgarh has vast reserves of iron ore, coal, bauxite, tin and diamond.The insurgency, which first erupted in 1967 in a village and spread now to 20 of India’s 29 states, have been described by Prime Minister Singh as the country’s largest internal security threat.

Prime Minister Singh echoed the chief minister’s concerns, saying that while the “security challenge” posed by the rebellion had to be met, state administrations must accelerate pro-poor welfare projects specially in Maoist-hit regions.—Agencies

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