To the question about his government’s failure to estimate the Maoist threat.
At the Prime Minister’s press conference, one of the questions that evoked a lot of interest in the media coverage afterwards came from Smita Prakash, Editor (News), Asian News International. Asked if his government had underestimated the Naxals, the Prime Minister said, “We have not underestimated the problem of Naxalism.” Here is the complete video of the question and the answer.
And here is the answer that the Prime Minister should have at least provided to the important question. Mind you that this is not the ideal, strong-worded answer one can come up with, but the least (and a politically correct answer) that the nation expects on such a grave subject from the Prime Minister.
That’s another tough one from Ms Prakash. But it is an important question which deserves to be answered in its entirety. If I were to be candid, and with the benefit of hindsight with us now, I’d agree that we could have done much more in our first tenure about finishing the Maoists. As you know, my government for the better part of its first tenure was guilty of the same misconception that continues to grip many of us even today. Many of you out here, supported so vociferously by many intellectuals in the public domain, still hold the view that Maoists are just misguided youth, fighting for the rights of the tribals and it can be handled as another law and order problem. We in the government were also guilty of holding this view till we realised half-way through that tenure that it was the biggest internal security challenge facing the country. I have since articulated it publicly at many forums. But the government is an elephantine machinery which takes its time to change course and act. Yes, I’d confess that we have been guilty on that count to a large degree.
What is even more worrying however, that while my government, and particularly the Home Minister, seems to have realised its folly and directed all its energies towards undoing the mistakes of the last tenure, the political consensus still eludes us. As a hallmark of a vibrant and healthy democracy that India is, there are varying opinions within the Congress party and the ruling coalition, but also within the political opposition on what should be the ideal anti-Maoist strategy. While we may have different ideas about finishing the scourge of the Maoists, let me reassure the nation that we all seek the same goal and we are all fully united and committed to this onerous task.
There are a few more challenges for us going forward. The first one is to generate a consensus across the complete political spectrum, involving both the centre and the states, and convincing them about our strategy to finish the Maoists. The time for debating the strategy is well past us now. Our security forces, policemen and policewomen, and government employees involved in development of Maoist-affected areas, need the full backing and unequivocal support of their countrymen. There will be setbacks along the way, as we have recently witnessed at Dantewada in the ghastly massacre of civilians and CRPF men before that, but that should only strengthen our resolve to strike harder at these mass murderers.
The next challenge for us, and we are trying our best in this regard, is to build the capacity of our security forces and police forces deployed against the Maoists. It won’t happen overnight but if we stick to it with a sense of purpose, I am certain we will soon see a perceptible difference on ground in the efficacy and effectiveness of our security operations. There is something very important I’d like to highlight here and it is the issue of Police Reforms. Despite directions from the Supreme Court, we have not moved forward in this important field for last four years. Any more delay in implementing these reforms by the states, and we at the centre have already taken some steps with the union territories in this field, will bring further misery to innocent population in these areas. We simply cannot afford this state of affairs as a nation any longer.
Finally, I’d like to assure everyone that we are committed to bringing development to these development starved areas. Our governance structures will have to be made more robust to face these current challenges and undertake fast-paced development in these areas when we have secured them and made the areas conducive for undertaking these developmental activities. Our ultimate aim is to restore governance and bring development to these areas and concerted security operations are only a step towards achieving that final goal.
I take this opportunity to seek the support of all Indians to finish the scourge of the Maoists and assure everyone that we are committed to establishing security so that we can bring development and prosperity to these areas. Next question please.