West Bengal: Jobs for Surrendered Maoists

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By A Correspondent

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently announced that surrendered Maoists will be given government jobs — home guards at that. No other Maoist-affected state in the country has thought of such an offer.

Mamata's statement is all the more significant because in Bengal, homeguards often act as back-up for the regular police force that is perennially short-staffed.

The first chief minister to come to Belpahari in four decades, Mamata drew a 70,000-strong crowd at the Belpahari block grounds, where 24-year-old Maoist Rabi Murmu laid down his .315 bore rifle, a 9mm pistol and 22 bullets before her. He is the 37th Maoist to surrender before the Trinamool-led administration. Only eight rebels had surrendered during the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee regime.

The state pays every surrendered Maoist a monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 for three years and a fixed deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh, which they can encash only after the 36-month period. There is also a financial reward for surrendering weapons — Murmu, for example, will get Rs 3,000 for each of his firearms and Rs 3 for each bullet.

But once these surrendered rebels get a government job, they will lose the financial benefits.

Maoist-affected Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh do not offer government jobs to surrendered Maoists. But Mamata's bold offer appears to be in sync with the home ministry's revised guidelines under which the Centre will foot the bills for work undertaken under the surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy for Maoists.

Bengal tops the chart in maximum utilization of funds allocated under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) among all rebel-hit states.

The Bengal government's success in luring rebels to the surrender package, however, can be undone by the slow pace of trial in the host of criminal cases in which these rebels have been implicated or charged by police. The chief minister on Wednesday also announced setting up of two fast-track courts in Jhargram and cleared the decks for the appointment of two additional district judges.

In case of surrendered Maoists, the Centre leaves it to the discretion of the states whether to push ahead with prosecution of heinous offences. Cases still being investigated by police are easier to withdraw, but not those that are already in the trial stage. Hence, the CM's decision to set up fast-track courts and appoint additional district judges to expedite such cases.

Mamata had earlier said Maoists accused of heinous crimes would be tried in court. The Left Front government had slapped grievous charges, including sedition, against these rebels. Some were even booked under UAPA. This was one of the reasons why the government's initial attempts to form a review committee to release political prisoners hit a legal stone wall.

Mamata kept up her onslaught against the Maoists who still refuse to shun the gun. "I am ready to fight with ideology, but not with murderers and looters. I urge them to return to the mainstream. If they don't, I will be the last person to tolerate the bloodshed of my own people. Even today, I was asked not to come here because there was an apprehension that I would be killed. But I am not one to fear death. The day I die, it will give birth to a crore who will take 'them' on. Peace is the pre-condition for development. Why should you let a mere 10 people snatch peace from you?" she said. "Apnara ki bhoye paben (will you be scared)?" she asked, as the crowd roared back "naa".

The CM announced a slew of development projects, including a Rs 21-crore drinking water plant in Binpur, which will help about 17,000 people in this parched zone. The government will recruit an additional 5,700 people from Jangalmahal for the state police and the Railway Protection Force will take another 700, she said. Undeterred by the recent furore over "voyeuristic" tribal tourism, Mamata said plans are afoot to promote tribal tourism in a big way here. Unveiling a Rs 6-crore tourism circuit for the region, the CM said: "If a foreigner or a tourist prefers to stay with you in your home and shares your food, it will help you earn only if you are ready to allow it. This will be a boon for your economic development. Switzerland will come to Belpahari one day."

[Source: South Asian Media Net]

APRIL 2017

Vol. 11 - No. 9










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