Naxals Try to Stop Development But We Continue to Work for It
The Chhattisgarh government’s efforts to step up development have driven left-wing extremists to desperation even as they are being driven out of the state, Chief Minister Raman Singh told Vasudha Venugopal in an interview. He also spoke about the benefits from the changes in the way mines are auctioned, demonetisation, roll-out of the goods and services tax, and allegations of corruption against his government. Edited excerpts:
What is your government’s strategy for addressing the challenge from left-wing extremists? The big fight in Bastar is building roads, bridges, schools. Building a road in Bastar is like fighting a war. When I go to Sukma I salute the soil. I place it on my head. This is where recently 11 jawans were martyred for the sake of good roads. The Naxals are trying their best to stop development and we are pushing for it. The done is to the culture of Bastar that was once known for its dholmandar and festivals. Tribals here are peaceloving and crimehating, but the Naxals made them violent people who extort money, kidnap people and ruined their lives. They made bonded labourers out of them. They violated their human rights. After we built education hubs of 6,000 children each, including in Dantewada, tribals here are looking at how their children are making it to the IITs and civil services – they don’t want to go down that violent path again.
What led to the creation of the CRPF’s Bastariya battalion? We wanted to connect the youth to employment and mainly to the security forces, including getting them jobs in the army and navy. Once trained with us, they can work well in any of the armed forces. These are youths who joined the Naxals but we have brought them back. They know the place in and out. We tell them Bastar tumhara hai, ise shaant karo (Bastar is yours, make it peaceful again). Don’t let Naxals, who come from Andhra, control you. Bastariya battalion is a matter of pride for the state as it is the only regional battalion in the paramilitary force.
What would you rate as the most significant achievement of the NDA government? Mines were earlier given to familiar, favourable faces. The PM put a stop to that. Poverty was the maximum in areas where there were the best mines. The tribals here were called ameer dharti ke gareeb log (poor people of the rich land). The District Mineral Foundation was introduced for the first time two years ago. It has brought additional funds to us...transparent auc- tion of iron ore, dolomite ensured that there was a significant increase in the state’s revenues. We started at ₹ 400 crore, we went beyond ₹ 4,000 crore. Now, in Korba, Dantewada, Raigarh, we are getting work of at least ₹ 500-1,000 crore more, which is going into development work for the people, ensuring drinking water and building schools. We have built good hospitals in Sukma and Bijapur. This is how policy changes things for the better.
There has been a lot of criticism of local police officials for targeting journalists and activists… These are activists from Delhi who are sympathisers of the Naxals. They have a pattern in which they operate – from J&K to Chhattisgarh. They keep blaming the local police, keep alleging they have raped women or harassing civilians. I find it difficult to accept that in places like this where there are explosions every other day, our jawans and police forces are engaged in activities like these, instead of protecting themselves or people around. It is a well-thoughtout ploy to defame our forces. Some of their allegations could be true but most are baseless. They just want to drag us to courts and get attention.
How do you respond to allegations of corruption against a minister in your government, and against you and your son? I have asked the chief secretary to give me a detailed report on the allegations against the minister’s wife. We will look into the matter thoroughly. If