Bastar, where silence speaks volumes, life begins with hunger, the indigenous people are cursed to keep the wolf from the door and demise lie in wait. In such chronic conditions, the journey of PM Narendra Modi to Dantewada, a district of Chhattisgarh, on May 09, 2015 was a red letter day for the people of Bastar. After a long time, a Prime Minister visited Bastar for development and prosperity of the region. In his visit, four major development projects were announced for the destitute region of south Chhattisgarh.
Bastar, indeed, is rich in natural resources but poverty-stricken region. You may find all kind of violence everywhere in the region. Although the state government, led by Raman Singh, is doing very good work to eradicate the poverty and violence, but needs to do more. As a research scholar, I have visited the region more than once. I felt every time that government should start some mega projects here so that the local people can engage with some productive jobs. While the Bailadila plant, in Bacheli, is working but not enough to provide jobs en masse. After three decades of isolation, Bastar received attention and PM announced four mega projects for development of the region.
One mega steel plant announced, for village Dilimili in Dantewada, will fulfil the need of jobs at local level. On the one hand it will provide the economic freedoms to Adivasis and will control the migration of tribes for jobs in off season on other hand. Owing to lack of proper irrigation facility most of Adivasi farmers are dependant on rainy season to cultivate. Hence, either they migrate to neighbouring states or stay idle or are forced to be part of so called revolutionary movement, which is committed to bring change since 60s but are still far from their fascinated goal. Dilimili steel plant will be a joint venture of the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC). SAIL, a Maharatna Company of Government of India (GoI), is the largest integrated iron and steel producer in country. The contribution of NMDC in the development of Dantewada is quite well- a big education city being established by the NMDC.
Second project is the extension of the 140 Kms Rowghat-Jagdalpur railway line. For this project an MoU was signed between Government of Chhattisgarh, NMDC, Indian Railway Construction Company Limited (IRCON), a government company incorporated by central government (Ministry of Railway) and SAIL. Bastar is really facing the challenges of road and rail communication. In fact, in the regards of road construction, the GoI, and the government of Chhattisgarh did great efforts which can be seen. But, for railways, topographical reasons fail the GoI. This project will fill the needs of communication in Bastar region. But constructing the road and railway is not a cakewalk, Maoists are the biggest obstacles.
Two other MoUs signed for development projects. One is between Government of Chhattisgarh and NMDC for Slurry pipeline and 2 million ton per annum (MTPA) Pellet plant at Nagarnar in Bastar District and second is between Government of Chhattisgarh and SAIL for setting up 1MTPA Pellet plant at Dalli-Rajhara, Balod District.
One thing which is noteworthy about all these projects is that plants will run by the government and not by the private sector. It is expected that these projects will create more than 10,000 direct and indirect job opportunities. It will be good in the longer interest people of Bastar.
By releasing a pamphlet, Maoists called for the boycott of the PMâ€™s visit to Bastar. Actually, they are in greater frustration and bound to be in a pocket after the killing of their top leaders in police and paramilitary force combing operations. They are against modernity and industrialisation process. They want to keep Adivasi as an emotional being and not a rational. They have vested interest in keeping the region under-developed. I have interviewed so many local people and they told me that, â€˜Maoists want to keep their issues and we are unable to access the welfare schemes of governmentsâ€™. They always oppose the developmental programmes of the state and forced them to be vulnerable. Their mass base is shrinking. It is high time to win the war against the Maoists. Now they are a mere political challenge with socio-economic problems. It is good time for initiating developmental projects to win the hearts and minds of indigenous people and deploying the forces to get the upper hand.
MEANS OF JOURNEY
This visit has multiple meanings. Firstly, by this visit PM Modi has given a message that he is careful enough to the inclusive and balanced development and not only the big cities are at attention. Secondly, this visit will break the political isolation of tribal people of Bastar from Delhi. PM addressed a public rally in Dantewada and told that the land of Bastar has shown a way of life to the world. This will be beneficial for strengthening the democracy. Thirdly, the moral of Maoists are very high after the Jhiram Ghati incident. This visit is strong signal to insurgents that the political class are not scared at any cost. Fourthly, this visit will open the door for other mining projects in Bastar region in future. Last but not least, in the last month four Maoists attack had happened, seven personnel belonging to the Special Task Force (STF) and one BSF man were killed and dozens of vehicle set on fire. This visit will boost the morale of security personnel in their fight with insurgents.
WHAT TO DO
Bastar is very backward region in terms of health and education; hence they are living in abject poverty. Initiating such big projects will bring the change in the lives of Bastar people. But, as they are uneducated and malnourished, so they may not prove themselves as productive force. Primary concern should be to ensure that the fruits of development must reach the poorest of poor. Government needs to open ITIs and Polytechnic colleges with massive nutritional schemes, so that they prepare themselves as a skilled and healthy one. And only can then can they ably oppose Maoists.
Only the process of development can ensure the ending of violence. Big projects are necessary for development. Only development can bring change and prosperity in country. Maoists are putting a spoke in wheel. This visit will be a game changer. I think our democracy is as real as anything. We are very fortunate to have an active prime minister, a man of action, who understands the Maoists threat and means of development. He does care the well-beings of Adivasi people. So, by all means, this visit of PM will bring Achhe Din for all of us.
By Ambikesh Tripathi