Chidambaram rules out using army against Maoists

NEW DELHI: Home Minister P. Chidambaram Wednesday reiterated that the government does not envisage using the army or the air force to tackle Maoists and urged business and industry captains to partner in the development of the country's hinterland.

"There cannot be army of air force action against the Maoists. It is simply not our policy," Chidambaram said while addressing an annual national conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here.

The home minister ruled out even concerted police action against Maoists.

"Though we have the ability to do it, even concerted police action cannot be taken. The police action has to be calibrated and controlled," he said.

Chidambaram emphasised that police action and developmental activities have to go hand-in-hand in Maoist-hit areas and one cannot exclude the other.

He said that the Maoists, despite professing to be pro-poor, continue to destroy infrastructural projects aimed at removing poverty and ushering development in the hinterland of the country.

He also lamented that the tribals, caught in illiteracy and poverty, continue to consider Maoists their well-wishers while lacking trust in the government and business houses.

"The people in these areas do not have the faith in good sense of the business people of India," Chidambaram said.

"Even the Tatas cannot do today, what Tatas did 100 years ago. Can you set up a steel plant in Chhattisgarh?" he asked.

The home minister added that "there was a trust deficit between the people of India and the government of India" and urged business and industry captains to win the trust of the poor and tribals and partner the government in the development process of the hinterland to fight the Maoist menace.

"You (business houses) say you cannot do it alone. I say I (government) cannot do it alone. It is here that we need to come together and work for the development," said Chidambaram.

Chidambaram told the CII gathering that the government has allocated thousands of crores of rupees for infrastructural projects like national highways (Rs.7,300 crore), rural housing (Rs.1,100 crore) and tube wells (Rs.500 crore) and added that "money is not a constraint".

But he said that despite spending up to two-thirds of this allocated fund, it was not showing results.

"The people and our elected representatives continue to ask where are the roads, electricity lines, etc which ought to have been there due to spending of all this money," Chidambaram said, adding that there was a failure on part of the delivery mechanism.

The home minister urged the captains of business and industry to create an alternative machinery for delivery of goods and services to the poor.