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Unified Command to battle Naxal menace
Centre okays more logistic support 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 14
In what is a first step at forming a common strategy for states hit by Naxal violence, the Centre today announced setting up of a Unified Command in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. Realising that development and action in Maoist areas should be together, the Centre also announced that over Rs 1,750 crore would be spent on developmental projects in the four states.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced the decision after a meeting of Chief Ministers of seven Naxal-affected states convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Jharkhand being under Central rule was represented by its Governor whereas West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya skipped the meeting and was represented by his Health Minister.

The Chief Secretary of each state will head the Unified Command, which will have a retired Major-General as its member. The CRPF will depute an IG-level officer for ‘operations’ while an equal rank officer from the state police force will coordinate the entire effort.

The Home Minister said that there was need for a Unified Command only in these four states and Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar had been omitted for the time being. “This (a unified command) is a normal pattern wherever various forces operate jointly like in Jammu and Kashmir and North-East,” Chidambaram said.

Responding to whether states had wanted the Army to be deployed, he said, “…None of the states directly sought the Army’s deployment but have asked for air support… The states wanted infusion of more paramilitary forces; they have been told that there were no available forces and will be provided once new battalions are raised.”

The Centre has told the states that their demand for air support was being considered. Air support will be ramped up once the Indian Air Force withdraws 15-odd MI-17 choppers on UN duty.

Separately, the Member-Secretary of the Planning Commission will work to modify existing norms and guidelines to ensure rapid development in the targetted 34 districts: Rs 800 crore will be spent on strengthening police stations and another Rs 950 crore on road connectivity in these districts. The government will fund the establishment and strengthening of 400 police stations in affected districts at the rate of Rs 2 crore a police station on 80:20 basis over a period of two years.

The Planning Commission is considering a special development plan for the affected districts and states with emphasis on road connectivity, primary education, primary healthcare and drinking water, the Home Minister said.

What is Unified Command?

Already in force in militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir and Assam, the Unified Command structure includes Army, paramilitary and state police, who work in coordination. The Centre has agreed to implement the structure in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal. But here, the Army, as per Union Home Minister, would not be involved. However, IAF helicopters would be used for supplies and evacuation. 







Tribal areas lagging: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 14
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said inter-personal issues could not be allowed to come in the way of tackling Left-wing extremism.

“We must be, and also appear to be, united and one in our resolve and in execution of our strategies,” he said. He stressed on the urgent necessity for central and state forces to work with total coordination and without misunderstanding, an obvious reference to the police and CRPF trading charges through media statements.

The Prime Minister candidly admitted that tribal areas were lagging behind and this state of affairs needs to be changed. “Our tribal populations have traditionally depended upon forests for their livelihoods and we must ensure that this link does not get disrupted without alternate means of livelihood being made available,” said the Prime Minister. 



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