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India’s offensive to defeat Maoist rebels is being hampered by too few police, while the absence of roads, schools and hospitals makes it hard to win over sympathizers of the guerrillas, the home minister said.
“Our capacity to execute plans is not commensurate with the nature of the challenge,” Palaniappan Chidambaram, 66, told provincial chief ministers in New Delhi today. The rebels have established a presence in three more states in India’s northeast and continue to induct new cadres at training camps, he said. Extortion to fund their operations remains “rampant.”
The Maoists, known in India as Naxalites after the West Bengal village of Naxalbari where their insurrection began in 1967, are active in around a dozen of the country’s 28 states, many of them rich in iron ore, coal, bauxite, manganese and other minerals. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the insurgents the greatest threat to India’s internal security.
In a February interview with Bloomberg News, Chidambaram said the country’s security forces were “albeit slowly” reversing Maoist advances that began after 2004.
Chidambaram told a conference in 2009 that reinforced police battalions in heavily forested Maoist enclaves would eliminate a rebel-run zone whose area is as big as Portugal. In February last year, he described the conflict as “a kind of stalemate.”
Execution Noble Ltd., a London-based financial services company, said in 2010 that the region affected by Maoist violence had the potential to draw $80 billion of investment.
The guerrillas target economic infrastructure, including railway lines, eliminate alleged police informers and extort money from contractors and company officials. They killed 606 civilians and members of paramilitary police forces last year, compared with 1,005 in 2010.
“The decline in the overall number of causalities among civilians and security forces in the left-wing extremist- affected states may give a false sense of assurance, but that is not the true picture,” Chidambaram said today. “Even while we continue with the two-pronged strategy, it is necessary to find ways and means to blunt the propaganda offensive” of Maoists.
Chidambaram said that 500,000 vacancies in police forces nationwide remain to be filled, limiting the ability of the state to build civil administration in Maoist strongholds.
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