Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maoist on the wane, development, governance to rise?

The first line of Calcutta’s Telegraph says it all “Bullets cannot isolate Maoists, bowls of rice can.”

As reported, West Midnapore administrators are developing a short-term relief and rehabilitation program for the area. Besides distributing rice aid, the administrators will have to revive the local panchayats and involve them in the relief program.

The article also notes additional challenges in income generation and the re-enumeration of individuals below the poverty line. Though government records show 30,000 people (of 150,000) below the poverty line, an official said this was ‘a gross underestimation.’

In order to promote the development of the region, the block government is attempting to procure sewing machines for the adhivasi community and axes for the Lodha woodcutter community. Finally, Telegraph noted that only 3 primary health centers and a number of primary schools exist.

The Telegraph is on point with this article and another, “Rise and rot of a rebel ‘state."

Communities will naturally be more responsive to the group that is perceived to be providing direct, meaningful benefits to the area, whether it is the government or not. Now that the government has begun to push out the Naxalites, it must ensure that development continues to occur in the area. However it would be a mistake to focus all attention on Lalgarh, other communities in West Bengal’s rural areas should also enjoy rural development programs.

Aside from social and economic development, good governance is also necessary in these areas. Reviving the panchayats will go a long way, particularly since they will be involved and co-opted into the relief programs. However, corruption will remain a factor.

In northern West Bengal, in Malda district, the Telegraph also reported that an adhivasi community is demanding the removal of the inspector-in-charge of Habibur police station alleging that police were bribed not to investigate, nor charge anyone in the gang raping of a 12-year old. Her father lodged a First Information Report after his daughter named her attackers.

If corruption can be reined in, development could have a chance of actually impacting the local community. If it is not, then not only will the money be wasted, but the development will not occur (or it will occur in a lopsided way).

Such an outcome will enable another violent group to entrench itself in the rural areas – where good governance and prosperity, simply haven’t arrived.

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