No rethink in anti-Maoist strategy: Chidambaram

NEW DELHI: Making it clear that the government won't reconsider its security operation against Maoist guerrillas, Home Minister P. Chidambaram Friday said that while development and calibrated police action were both necessary to tackle Leftwing extremism, "no fixed prescription is possible".

"The debate on what should take place first - development or police action - is misplaced," Chidambaram said, addressing the consultative committee of the home ministry that discussed Maoist extremism in mineral rich central India.

Taking a swipe at his critics, Congress colleague Digvijay Singh included, the home minister said the decision on launching development activities in Maoist-affected areas and the security operation would vary from situation to situation.

"No fixed prescription is possible. In some areas, it may be possible to undertake some developmental activities, to be followed immediately by steps to strengthen security. In other areas, it may be necessary to first launch police action to regain control of the territory, followed by vigorous developmental activities," he said.

Digvijay Singh had last week questioned the home minister's anti-Maoist policy and accused him of "intellectual arrogance". The Congress leader, in a newspaper article, asked the home minister to stop treating Maoism as a law and order issue as the problem could not be solved "by ignoring the hopes and aspirations of the people living in these areas".

In Friday's meeting, the home minister drew attention to the anti-development activities of Maoists.

"They have been destroying school buildings, roads, telephone towers etc. because development will wean away poor tribals from their grip," he said.

"In 2009 alone, they have destroyed 71 school buildings, the re-building of which may take years, depriving tribal children of education."

Taking a dig at state governments, the home minister said the central government was giving huge amounts of money for development in the 34 worst-affected districts.

"However, utilization of the money is not always satisfactory," he said, calling for "full and proper utilization of the funds, provided by the centre for development of the Naxal-affected areas".

Members of the committee supported the government's two-pronged policy to deal with the Maoist insurgency. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly described Maoist insurgency as "the gravest threat" to India.

The panel included MPs like Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Congress' K. Keshava Rao and Rishang Keishing, Nationalist Congress Party's Thomas Sangma, Bharatiya Janata Party's Vinay Katiyar and Yogi Adityanath and nominated Rajya Sabha MP Ashok Sekhar Ganguly among others.