Thursday, July 15, 2010

Will Unified Command be able to tackle Maoist?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The Central Government has finally waken up to the growing problem of Naxals and proposed the setting up of a Unified Command to tackle the problem. Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal which have been the worst affected by Maoist violence, have been asked to set up a Unified Command. Its main aim will be to share intelligence and handle the Naxal problem as a single force. This Command will be headed by Chief Secretaries of the four states.

On paper this looks like a great decision to bring the state police, central forces and paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies under one command. A retired Major General will be a part of this Command structure to look into its functioning. The states will appoint an officer of the rank of Inspector General for the Command. But the bigger question is will such a structure work effectively?

The absence of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee from this high level meeting shows that not all political leaders and parties are on the same platform and frequency when it comes to tackling the Maoists. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wants to fight Naxalism with development while his Chattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh believes there is no alternative to armed response. Will a United Command work if we do not have a united polity?

The problem in dealing with the Naxals so far has been the fact that different states have had different approach when it comes to dealing with them. While some believed in using forces others wanted to invite them for talks. This gave Naxals a free haven where they would conduct operations in one state and than slip into another thus making a mockery of the security forces in the country. It is no irony that the security forces in the Naxal affected areas have hardly achieved any success.

Bulk of the security forces in the Unified Command will come from the State police forces which will be controlled by the state governments. The problem is to make all of them work like a single machine. The Centre’s role will be to oversee the operations as our federal structure provides very little playing ground to the Centre in such situations unless it takes control over the State with President’s Rule. Can it make the different states fight as a cohesive unit? This question will only be answered in the coming days.


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