Published: Wednesday 30 June 2010

Change approach to Naxalism

This is in response to the editorial ‘Bullets are not the answer to development’ (April 16-30, 2010). On my first job in Dumka (now in Jharkhand) in 1974, I was shocked to see the condition of the tribals. All the wealth in the area was in the hands of a few business families who were migrants.

They made the tribals work as bonded labourers. Businessmen and traders also forced the tribals to sell their agricultural and forest produce to them at throwaway prices. The government officials also ganged up with the rich and intimidated the tribals if they protested. To my surprise even tribal leaders were not loyal to their clan members.

When I recently travelled from Ranchi to Giridih district by road, I could see things had not changed. For example, I found tribals carrying illegally mined coal on bicycles. They were pushing the cycles up steep slopes and down deep inclines over 80 km to Ranchi. I was told they earn only a few rupees from all the hard work as they have to grease the palms of police personnel, forest officials and government officials. People told me that the rich businessmen are still using the tribals as bonded labourers. Till the time such exploitation continues, we cannot think of ridding the area of extremism.


image I read the editorial on the Naxal attack shortly after I finished reading several chapters of the US military’s current counter-insurgency field manual, published in December 2006. The US military clearly spells out that the primary objective of any counterinsurgency operation is to foster effective governance by a legitimate government. The emphasis is not on legitimacy in some faraway capital, but on legitimacy in the area where the insurgents are active.

I wonder what the Indian military, and more importantly, the political leadership have to say about legitimacy in the eyes of the people. I am not saying that US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are always doing what their field manual demands, but I do think it is relevant that the field manual of 2006 drew a lesson from disasters and changed the approach from search and destroy to trying to win hearts and minds.

Editor in chief, Development and Cooperation

image I was born and brought up in Jharkhand and understand the root cause of the Maoist problem. It is income inequality. About 40 km from the Tata steel plant in Jamshedpur, people live in abject poverty. Industrialization and liberalization has done nothing to alleviate their sufferings. So mineral extraction will continue as will use of bullets to suppress people.

Environmental norms will be violated and the government will continue to be in denial. The major concern is that we are using CRPF and army to kill our own citizens. A few days ago, I heard the government plans to use drones. Even the US does not use drones to maintain internal law and order. Give peace a chance.


image I have been to Jharkhand as a student of anthropology. I feel an emotional attachment with the tribals there. I agree that the tribals must get their share in what the government and companies earn by exploiting minerals under the forests they live in. But who will decide their share? In a democratic system, the government represents people and their voice. But the system also gives equal rights to dissenting opinions.

It’s difficult to decide who is the real representative of the people. As far as their economic status is concerned, the tribals are poor only in our conception. The intellectuals and Naxalites tell them they are deprived. For those who think that Naxalites are doing good to the tribals, the reality is they charge protection money from government employees and contractors to buy arms and ammunitions—not bread.


image Why does the government ask tribals to give up their land for any mining or industrial project? Don’t the tribal communities inhabiting the land for generations have any claim over their ancestral property? It is all right if the government acquires a portion of their land for building roads, schools and hospitals. But acquiring swathes of their land and selling it to corporate houses is unethical. Whether the tribal communities want to collaborate with industries should be left to them.


image Forests with their flora and fauna and the rich mineral deposits underneath are resources that belong to all the people in the country. How can industrialists destroy these resources for personal gains?

The political actions of Maoists are also not in the interests of tribals; they have merely taken advantage of the situation. Tribals are the original inhabitants of the country and must be protected.


Promote home eco-solutions

The Environmental Protection Agency in the US estimates that the agricultural sector has the highest share of pollution in America. We, in India, do not have a study like that to decide on the strategy for climate impact mitigation (‘No cheap change is possible,’ May 16-31).

Some Indians are working on ecologically sound practices that can help restore nature’s balance. Keshav Krishi (named after Keshavpura area in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra) offers a better approach to agriculture where practices detailed in ancient vedic texts are used to grow food organically; it also reduces pollution. In another instance, a couple of private companies have developed a new technology for producing bio-ethanol from straw waste.

The technology has been validated by the Panjab University. About 300 litres of anhydrous fuel-grade ethanol can be extracted from one tonne of straw of wheat and rice; the cost of producing this ethanol is likely to be lower than the enzymatic route followed abroad.

Then there is the bio-sanitizer developed by Uday Bhawalkar, an IIT Mumbai alumnus. The sanitizer treats municipal solid waste and biomedical waste aerobically without polluting the environment. We don’t need to look westward for solutions. Will the huge state machinery of the government of India get rid of its rust and do something positive to save the environment?


image India is a vast country. Its barren land in far-flung places should be utilized for setting up industries. The land will be cheaper and overhead costs and infrastructure for safely disposing pollutants would not be very high in such areas. Develop such areas for local inhabitants also.

Instead of looking towards the developed world for help, the government should promote environmental engineering and pay bright minds well to solve environmental problems.


image I am sure India can reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The country is rich in renewable sources like hydel, wind and solar power. With a little investment in research, our scientists and engineers can devise efficient ways to tap renewable energy sources to their full potential. Clean fuels like compressed natural gas help reduce pollution 40 per cent, and powering our public transport with solar energy or batteries, would curb emissions comprehensively. Our government can afford such technology.


Pick of the postbag

Pedicabs and climate talks

Do our ministers have any idea how much India’s local transportation contributes to the health of the planet? Cycle rickshaws are the prime transportation mode in most towns. A rickshaw-puller exerts about 200 Watts during a 30-minute trip.

On an average, he makes 10 trips a day, which means he produces 1kWh energy a day. Given that at least 400 rickshaws ply in small towns and with a conservative loading factor of 50 per cent, the total energy generated by these rickshaws is 200 kWh. For 300 working days a year, the rickshaw fleet in each town generates 60,000 kWh. Since there are more than 1,000 towns, the country produces at least 60 million kWh of emission-free energy every year.

More than 15 million kg of fossil fuel like diesel would have been required to produce the same amount of energy; 0.25 kg of fossil fuel produces 1kWh of energy. Since each kilo of fossil fuel emits 15.2 kg of greenhouse gas, the rickshaw-pullers of India prevent release of 228 million kg of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If one includes the animal power the figure would increase further; a bullock or a horse generates 2 kW of energy per hour. Our ministers need to do their homework before climate negotiations.

B SINGH bhup_inder@yahoo.com

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