Integrated Action Plan in Naxal-affected Districts: A Critique

31 Oct, 2012    ·   3743

Medha Chaturvedi on the tussle between the Indian MHA and MoRD on the implementation of the Integrated Action Plan for naxal areas

Medha Chaturvedi
Medha Chaturvedi
Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Internal and Regional Security (IReS)
Can the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) of the government become an effective strategy in addressing the naxal issue? Is the divergence between the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) over implementation of the IAP likely to affect its performance? What needs to be done to ensure that the IAP is sustainable?

About the Integrated Action Plan (IAP)
Since it was first presented in 2010, the IAP has been extended to 82 districts. The initial 33 districts were part of the 83 Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts identified under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The LWE districts coming under the IAP were those wherein more than 20 per cent of the total number police stations in the district saw incidents of naxal violence.
To begin with, IAP for 60 identified tribal and backward districts was implemented with a block grant of Rs.25 crore and Rs.30 crore per district during 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, for which the funds were to be placed at the disposal of the Committee headed by the District Collector (DC) assisted by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the district and the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO).
MHA and MoRD: The divergence
With Sushil Kumar Shinde taking over the MHA, there appears to be a divergence in terms of implementation of the IAP. The minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh is of the view that in the 82 IAP districts under SRE the IAP funds be channeled through local bodies and locally elected Panchayat representatives and Gram Sabhas. He has written a letter to the Planning Commission citing his views. However, Shinde has written another letter to the Finance Minister and Prime Minister stating that these suggestions should be disregarded and the implementation of the IAP must remain with the civil administration in the districts. For now, a status-quo remains, however, this issue in not the one to die down just yet.

Both, the MHA and MoRD are not willing to relent. MoRD’s contention is that non-involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions has alienated the public from the development process and thus, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and Tribal Affairs must be entrusted the responsibility of implementing the IAP. The MHA, on the other hand, is of the view that implementation of the plan by the civil administration would increase the government’s credibility in the sensitive LWE areas through demonstration effect. In his letter to the PM in August, he wrote, "The CPI (Maoist) actively destroys infrastructure. In such a situation, even if the IAP is being implemented in peripheral areas, it has 'demonstration effect' on the people living in naxal areas. In severely affected areas, security forces have to first clear the area before we take up development activity."

Although, the Planning Commission has not taken any action on MoRD’s suggestions, advisories have been issued to district collectors in all the IAP districts in the Naxal areas to include Gram Sabhas in the consultative meetings on the development projects sanctioned under the IAP.

This intra-government dispute will fester as long as basic problems with the IAP are not addressed. Since its inception in 2010, the IAP has been extended to 82 districts in all. All these districts get an equal grant of Rs 30 crore for development initiatives. However, among these 82 districts, only about 30 districts can be classified as highly LWE affected districts. In the long-term, a grant of this nature towards development initiatives is unsustainable if it is extended to a larger number of districts. A graded system of grants under the scheme would be a more effective way, wherein peripheral areas with marginal threat perception can be identified and given a grant on pro-rata basis. The distribution of funds under the IAP need to be in proportion to the severity of the LWE threat. Besides, the funds are generally used up in relatively stable areas and the problem in sensitive areas persists. 
In the absence of local representatives, the Divisional Forest Officer and Superintendent of Police are two authorities whom the locals see as a part of the problem. Therefore, the triumvirate implementation of authority needs to have local representation to gain confidence of the people and carry out ground level development work with their support. While, the MoRD has suggested that Panchayats be given greater role in the process, their politicization is not new. Giving the more democratic Gram Sabha higher authority would then be a better option.

There is also a need for streamlining the spending of the allocated funds. Most of the funds (nearly 50 per cent) are diverted towards construction of roads, followed by minor irrigation works, anganwadi and school construction which comprise approximately 10 per cent of the total expenditure. Healthcare, sanitation and clean water services have been mostly neglected, with less than three per cent of the total expenditure being spent on them.

The Union’s flagship scheme IAP has borne results in the recent past, but, a tug of war between the two ministries may affect this initiative. In addition, besides sorting out issues on its implementation within the government, there is an immediate need for better streamlining of the process itself.