“We Are Waging War On Naxalites On All Fronts” —Brijmohan Agarwal
Brijmohan Agarwal is Minister of Public Works department, School Education, Culture, Legislative Affairs & Tourism departments in the Chhattisgarh government. In an interview to Monalisa Biswal of Uday India, he spoke on various subjects such as Naxal menace, development in education, promoting tourism centres & others. Excerpts.
What are the major steps are you taking for the development?
In Chhattisgarh, especially in tribal areas and Naxal- affected areas, we have started the work of opening residential schools. We have shifted the schools located in the interior areas close to the roads. The biggest achievement is that we brought 250 students from the Naxal-affected areas and kept them in Raipur and provided them coaching. 150 students were selected in NIT and some students have even cleared IIT. This proves that those belts have education facility and this is a very unique effort. We are planning to bring 250 girls from the same areas so that the children are not deprived of education and after being educated they go to such areas and work for the development. This will lead to the development of the nation as well.
You were also Home Minister once. What do you think is the solution to the Naxal problem?
We should not divide the Naxal problem into blocks. We have to adopt a combined effort, joint policy and joint command. Moreover, the Central Government should also operate jointly. 12 states Approximately 180 districts in 12 states, which comprise jungles, minerals and many valuable things, are not getting developed properly due to Naxal problems. For this Central Government has to consider the problem seriously. If they say that the state should handle this then we can’t find a solution in days to come.
What are the steps that the government has taken to fight the Naxal problem?
Ours is the only state government that is fighting against Naxal problem. For this, we are even facing troubles. Chhattisgarh is surrounded by seven states: Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. So, strategically Chhattisgarh is very important to Naxalites. For this we are regularly recruiting in our forces. We have also opened a guerilla warfare training school and we regard this as a nation’s problem. Central government should involve paramilitary forces and new techniques. A policy should be chalked out at national level so that the nation can fight the Naxalite problem.
What is the demand of the state government from the Centre?
The state government wants that the funding should not be based on the criterion of population. The funding should be earmarked more for the underdeveloped state, state with more tribal population, those who have preserved green belts. If they give the same amount for education like other states, we won’t be able to provide education to the tribal areas and Naxal belt children. If the Central Government provides the same amount of money for roads as it provides to other states, we too would be able to develop roads. So for every aspect, they should provides more money. Today, Chhattisgarh provides the maximum earning to the Railways but it has the minimum number of railway tracks. So there is a need for funds to build tracks. Similarly, there is a need for providing funds for research insitutes and higher education.
You are also education minister. What policies have you implemented in the education field?
We have requested the Central Government to establish model schools. We have asked them for residential schools in those areas. In the past ten years, we have opened ten thousand new schools. Only 10 per cent of the girls are lagging behind and the rest have come to an equal footing with boys in terms of education. We are planning a primary school within the range of one kilometre, a middle school within three kilometers distance high school within 5 kms, higher secondary school within 7 kms. We have accomplished the 75per cent task and in the next two years, will reach 100 per cent mark, so that we make children more and more aware in the field of education. We have almost 60,000 schools which provide education to almost 60 lakh students. And school education department handles this responsibility very efficiently. But the Central Government is not able to provide us as it much support as it is required. This situation is quite problematic.
Why compared to the other states like Gujarat and Karnataka where there is the highest amount of investment, Chhattisgarh does not have much investment to its credit.
No, it is not that way. Chhattisgarh is getting a lot of investment. In the coming five years. It will be the power hub of this country. It will supply 20,000MW electricity to the entire nation. It produces 12 per cent of the total iron ore and 18 per cent of the cement. There are many favorable possibilities for investments as Investment is already pouring in the state. In the last 8 years, Rs 2 lakh crore have been invested in different sectors of the state.
How far has tourism been affected by Naxalites?
Indeed, the tourism has been affected but the entire tourist places are safe and they have no danger from the Naxalites. Naxalites are against administration and the police and they (Naxalites) have never harmed any tourist. And this problem of Naxalites is in the interior areas. Our tourist places are completely safe.
Even if the Centre provides money, it is the responsibility of the state to implement it. The Centre says that it is providing money but the state is not using it properly.
The situation in Chhattisgarh is not as such. The funds provided by the government is being properly utilised. Chhattisgarh is the country’s fastest growing state. Its GDP ranks first in the country which has been 11.62 for the last five years. This state is not like other states. Whatever help is given to the state, it makes appropriate use of it for the development of every strata of society.
P Chidambaram has said that as law and order is the matter of the state he can only provide support and the rest lies in the hands of the states. How do you see it?
If it had been a matter of only one state, then I would have agreed but 12 states are the victims of this problem. And now it seems that the terrorist groups from outside the country are also involved. The other law and order activities in the country affect 4 or 5 per cent of the population but the Naxal problem is affecting 18 per cent of the population. It is unfortunate that due consideration is not being given to this problem which is assuming a gargantuan proportion.
The implementation in that area seems quite tough even if the government provides funds. How will you do that?
Implementation won’t be tough. In certain areas, it is difficult but outside those areas there are some jungle areas where development can be done in terms of education, roads, electricity, health, water and other facilities. And when population is aware, the Naxalites won’t be able to find a place in those areas.