Naveen Fighting A Lost Battle
If the way the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government handled the situation arising from the kidnapping on February 16, 2011, of Ravella Vineel Krishna, the District Collector of Malkangiri District, and a junior engineer Pabitra Majhi by the Maoists active in the District is looked into, then it seems that the state government is fighting a losing battle against the left-wing extremists (LWEs). However, the recent statement by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has turned out to be a big relief for the Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha, which has been at the receiving end for the manner in which it handled the situation.
The major mistake committed by the Odisha government in dealing with the kidnapping of the District Collector and the junior engineer is that it would appear to have concluded at the very beginning of the situation that it had no other option but to concede the demands of the hostage-takers. As a result, the principal aim of the negotiations became not giving the intelligence and security agencies time to prepare the ground for a possible rescue mission, but to reach a compromise with the hostage-takers on their demands. Once the Maoists realised that the state government had no stomach for prolonged negotiations or intervention to rescue the hostages, they stuck to all their demands and forced the government to capitulate. The government seemed to have capitulated without any exercise to identify the various operational and psychological options available to it. Even if the government was mentally prepared to concede some of the demands in order to save the lives of two dedicated public servants, it could have explored the option of conceding those demands of the Maoists relating to the welfare and grievances of the local people and rejecting those demands which could affect the counter-insurgency operations. It did not do so. It just capitulated without even seeming resistance to the demands of the Maoists. This is likely to affect adversely the effectiveness of future counter-insurgency operations in the state.
The history of hostage crisis in India goes back to 1971 when two members of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) hijacked a plane of the Indian Airlines to Lahore. All governments in power when these incidents took place had negotiated with the hostage-takers either directly or through intermediaries. It is, therefore, pointless to say that no negotiations should be held. Such a position would be unwisely rigid and come in the way of operational flexibility.
It is very difficult to get the answer to the question, “should the demands of the hostage-takers be conceded”? The basic principle of all counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency doctrines is that the demands should not be conceded, come what may. While this principle is generally adhered to in most countries even at the risk of the hostages being killed, history of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency has instances where the demands were conceded for some reason or the other even by countries such as Israel or the US even though they openly did not admit so.
The argument that Krishna decided to go on the tour without security he had already been provided with personal security officers (PSOs) by the government to avoid attracting the attention of the Maoists is not a valid one as it is common knowledge that the left wing ultras had sufficient intelligence network to track down the movement of their possible targets. The manner in which the collector was almost led to a kidnapping trap clearly proves that the Maoists were keeping a close watch on his every step. The hasty manner in which the Odisha government took steps to resolve the crisis also puzzled many. In a critical situation like this the Chief Minister was expected to call for an all-party meeting to take everybody into confidence before entering into any kind of settlement with the Maoists.
Instead, the government preferred only two senior officials (home secretary UN Behera and panchayat raj secretary SN Tripathy) to do all the negotiations with the Naxalites through the three mediators. The only other top administrator involved in the entire process was chief secretary Bijay Patnaik. Interestingly, no member of the state cabinet was involved in the negotiation process which has provided enough space to the critics of the BJD government in general and Chief Minister Patnaik in particular to maintain that the latter had more confidence in his select group of bureaucrats than his own cabinet colleagues.
But, the rallying point, where the whole critics stand is, “Why the home department of Naveen Patnaik government ignored the IB alert issued to it few months back? The Intelligence Bureau had alerted the state government that the Collectors of Rayagada and Malkangiri were on the hit list of the Maoists and that there were media reports in Maharashtra that the two Collectors might be abducted. The IB had sought a reply from the state government as to what security measures were taken during the tour of the Malkangiri Collector in that part of the cut-off region.
Amid mounting demands from Opposition political parties for a CBI enquiry into the alleged abduction of Malkangiri Collector and the junior engineer by Maoists and their subsequent release after eight days of captivity, a social worker, Manas Behera of Cuttack has filed a PIL on March 1, 2011 in Odisha High Court seeking a CBI probe into the entire episode.
CLASH OF TITANS
Allegations and Counter-Allegations Give Assembly Polls Added Vigour and Vitality
The elections to the Kerala assembly will take place on April 13 and with the BJP coming out with a petition towards the Chief Election Commission to either prepone or postpone the poll date as one of the major Hindu festivals of Kerala, Vishu falls on that day.
The ruling LDF led by the CPI-M and the opposition UDF led by the Congress are both facing unexpected issues with the CPI-M firing the first salvo just before the election date was announced against the senior leaders of the UDF including Muslim League leader PK Kunhalikutty and the Kerala Congress (B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai.
Pillai is in Poojapura central jail serving a one year rigorous imprisonment in a case related to graft in the multi-crore hydro-project at Idamalayar. Kunhalikutty is in the dock over the recent outburst of a Malayalam channel, India Vision, whose chairman is the Muslim League state secretary Dr MK Muneer, bringing in new revelations that Kunhalikutty and his associates had bribed the judiciary and the victims to escape jail term in the sex scandal which had rocked Kerala in the mid-ninetees.
However, Congress and the UDF retorted with the Congress channel, Jaihind coming out with startling allegations against the son of the Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan stating that he had connections with the lottery mafia and a company run by him has conducted online lottery business while Achuthanandan was the left front convenor in the state. There were also allegations that Achuthananandan was connected with a judicial middle man, TG Nandakumar and were using his services in some cases. There were also allegations that Achuthanandan’s son Arun Kumar had asked for bribe from one of the pioneers of Kerala’s Information Technology, KPP Nambiar in a power project which he had tried to bring to Kerala during the period of Nayanar government. Congress MLA VD Satheesan in a press conference brought out the copy of KPP Nambiar’s autobiography which stated that Arun Kumar asked for seventy-five crore rupees as bribe for the multi-crore power project which was to come up at Irinavu in North Kerala.
With these allegations and counter-allegations increasing the temperature in the election arena much before even both the fronts have started finalising the candidates, it has given enough room to think about the coming days when the electioneering goes out in full steam.
Sources in the central intelligence agency is of the opinion that at present the Congress-led UDF has a good winning chance and the front may get around 85 seats out of a total of 140 thus getting comfortable majority for ruling the state for the next five years. However things are not rosy as the Intelligence Bureau has in an earlier report given in the fag end of December stated that the Congress-led front would crush the LDF with a huge margin. In that report the UDF was to get 107 seats which would have given a landslide for the UDF.
The UDF camp is not that happy with the electioneering process as there are also other issues in the camp regarding even the Chief Minister candidate. There has been calls from all corners on giving the leader of the opposition Oommen Chandy a fair amount of chance to become the Chief Minister once again as in the earlier term he had to be satisfied with only one and half years of rule as he had succeeded AK Antony who had an ignominious exit from the state following the drubbing the front received in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections in the state when he was the Chief Minister.
It is no secret that Antony is not sharing a cozy relationship with Chandy and, Ramesh Chennithala and according to sources, Antony would play some cards which will put an end to the aspirations of both Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala. Antony has already announced in public that fresh faces should be given preference to time-tested old-war horses who were winning for the past several elections. Congress observers and political pundits are of the opinion that this is a calculated ploy on the part of Antony to get a firm grip on the Congress legislative party in Kerala which was instrumental in his ouster. It is a known secret in the corridors of power in the Congress party and for that matter in the political circles of Thiruvananthapuram that AK Antony is a politician who never forgives and forgets and if that is taken into consideration he will never forgive Oommen Chandy for having replaced him as Chief Minister. Journalists who had covered the day when Antony had stepped out for Oommen Chandy recollects the tears in his eyes and this could prove vital for Oommen Chandy .
Then the million dollar question arises, who would be the Chief Minister if UDF comes to power and there are four aspirants to that chair. Excluding Chandy others in the race are VM Sudheeran, Ramesh Chennithala, Vyalar Ravi and K Sankaranarayanan. Kerala has always given Chief Minister’s post to either a Christian or from the Hindu community, Nair or Ezhava, the two powerful communities of the state.
It was in 1996 that a Nair became Chief Minister in the state as Comrade EK Nayanar became the Chief Minister when LDF came to power. In 2001 it was AK Antony, a Roman Catholic Christian, and after three and half years Oommen Chandy, an Orthodox Christian. In 2006, it was the turn of Achuthanandan who is an Ezhava. If this combination is taken into consideration then the lot will go to a Nair. Among the four mentioned Sudheeran and Vayalar Ravi are ruled out as both are Ezhavas. Then the race is between Ramesh Chennithala and the Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan.
In the Congress group politics, Ramesh Chennithala was in the third group or the reformists group along with Karthikeyan, Shanavas and KC Venugopal. Venugopal is now a Minister of State for Power at the centre and political pundits who have been closely following the Congress politics state that Venugopal becoming a union minister is not accidental. It was a shrewd calculated political move by AK Antony who wants to take this card out when Ramesh Chennithala stakes the claim for chief ministership as he would then come out with the theory that both Ramesh and Venugopal are Nair and that both are from the same group. Then there is only one name and that is K Sankaranarayanan.
When a political student analyses the political graph of Sankaranarayanan he come to know that the latter was the longest-serving UDF convener in the state, and was the finance minister in Antony’s 2001 cabinet. It was Antony who made him Governor for Nagaland, and promoted him to Jharkhand and then took him to Maharashtra, India’s most powerful state.
In politics, however, calculations can go awry and this theory and combination may not fall into place but this is the theory which Antony would put forward in the post election scenario.
By Reshmi Padma from Thiruvananthapuram
The PIL urged the High Court to direct the CBI for a thorough enquiry into the entire episode in which the state government reportedly signed an MoU with the outlawed Maoist organisation. Alleging that the whole episode and the subsequent mediation for release of the government officials from their abductors was stage-managed by the state government to divert the attention of the people from the ongoing dal and mines scams, the petitioner has urged the High Court to direct the government to place all records pertaining to the episode for public scrutiny.
Detailing as many as nine grounds in support of his plea, the petitioner has questioned the veracity of the so-called mediation with the Maoists in which neither the central government nor any of the neighbouring state governments were involved.“When a joint commando of forces involving central and other state policemen are fighting against the Maoists, how the state government unilaterally went ahead with signing a peace treaty with the banned organisation”, questioned the petitioner-advocate Arun Kumar Budhia. The petition was, however, not admitted till the report was filed.
With the questions being raised over the credibility of the state government, the million-dollar question arises, whether it was inevitable for the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik government to give its nod to all the 14-point Maoist demands to ensure the release of R Vineel Krishna and the junior engineer. If so, it obviously needs a debate at length.
Goat Rearing Ensures Food Security For Rural Poor
“Goat rearing is a good way of ensuring food security right. Many of our studies have shown that families, in rural areas have escaped hunger and disease just because they had a goat to take care of their needs,” said Sanjeev Kumar, founder trustee of Goat Trust, a unique trust that works on goats across five states—Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Kumar, who has a degree in livestock products and mangement from Haryana and is now stationed in Lucknow, says that as goat rearing is done by the poor, and generally on a small scale by women, it has never been taken seriously as an enterprise or industry and falls in unorganised sector.
“Goat rearing in most of India is a supplementary income work done by mainly poor women. Marketing is totally middleman oriented, the owner hardly gets profit,” informs Kumar.
There is therefore, according to him, an urgent need to develop strategy in respect of breed conservation, management, health care, credit, insurance and marketing system of goat in the country.
Ibtada (meaning start), a Rajasthan-based NGO that Goat Trust works with, has done several studies on the goat scenario in Rajasthan. One of the study with its concern for household food security and gainful employment of women and poor families finds an opportunity in strengthening goat rearing on semi stall fed model to reduce the drudgeries of goat rearing and enhance the financial return of business, informs Kumar who has done intensive field work in Rajasthan’s Alwer district, the land with a fairytale story describing how one man Rajender Singh, known as Waterman of India, turned the desert into an oasis.
Ibtada has organised over 1200 women from poor families in the saving and credit groups in the area. Today nearly 40 per cent of families are already engaged in goat rearing with varying degree of dependence.
Ibtada perceived that if goat milk can have an assured and women friendly market (collection from hamlet and fair & transparent payment system), the goat rearing can be metamorphosised into a semi stall fed model with high focus on breed quality and enhanced investment in feeding of goats. Such a process will lead to improvement in genetic quality through breed-up gradation and selection and will facilitate development of a semi stall fed model of goat raring with very limited grazing and feed supplementation of proper nutritional quality.
A market study in Rajasthan showed that city-dwellers specially middle and lower class respondents have a positive perception towards goat milk (84 per cent) in Jaipur. Seventy-seven per cent respondent are willing to purchase goat milk if available in market. However, majority of respondents (65 per cent) intend to purchase it in packaged form.
Things are going to change in Uttar Pradesh too. While 25 per cent of countries goat comes from Uttar Pradesh and goat and sheep contribute about 15 per cent of total meat production of the state next to buffalo meat yet, as there are no global-standard slaughterhouses in the state, goats are transported to Kolkata to meet demand of export.
On review of available literature, it has been found that procurement and marketing of milk has been on rise across the globe with leadership from Holland, France, Australia.
“China has developed a huge production and market capacity in recent past as 23 companies are involved in goat milk procurement and marketing through various goat milk products from Shanghai region. Similar efforts in Sri Lanka have been on rise. Desert like Mauritania has established community-level camel and goat-milk-processing plants and has been successfully managing the business.
A semi-structured interview of reputed pediatricians of Alwar highlighted that goat milk is deficient in folic acid and it should not be promoted as sole food for infants. However, it can be promoted as nutritional supplements for growing children and aged people, provided pasteurised and packaged milk availability can be ensured.
Had it not been for goat milk, the villagers would never know the taste of milk as all the big co-operative dairies buy all the buffalo and cow milk milched in the villages.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow
Krishna made a pitch for development during Maoist captivity
After eight tense but quiet days and nights in the forest, District Collector R Vineel Krishna woke up on February 24 to media cacophony on his official lawns. “Staying in the jungle and experiencing how ‘adivasis’ live has brought greater sensitivity to my life,” he told reporters. “It was a life-changing experience.” Personal transformation apart, it appears the jungle sojourn provided Krishna an inadvertent opportunity to make a plea for the government and its development initiatives.
On February 24, after eight nights of constantly shifting location in the forests, walking with a group of gun-wielding Maoists, Krishna sensed freedom was close at hand, when his captors brought him to “praja court” (people’s court) a large public gathering, attended by 1500-2000 adivasis, hours before his release. First, the Maoist leaders made speeches, hitting out at government failures. Then they asked Krishna to respond.
ADVANTAGES OF GOAT MILK
■ Easily digestible quality milk suitable for children and aged people.
■ Accessibility of comparatively low-priced non-allergic goat milk to allergic patients, bone-fractured patients in hospitals.
■ Health drinks for growing children and adults.
■ Comparatively low-cost milk for tea and coffee.
“I said I cannot answer for what happened decades back. I concentrated on what I have done. I won’t say we have done great things. But from the bottom of my heart, I can say we have been trying to bring some development to the area,” he said, recounting his speech. Krishna had been abducted and held in what is aptly called Malkangiri’s ‘cut-off’ area—900 square kilometers rendered inaccessible and atoll-like ever since the construction of the Balimela dam in the 70’s.
Odisha government twice attempted to build a bridge to connect the ‘cut-off’ area to Malkangiri’s mainland. The last attempt failed when a private engineering firm abandoned the project in the face of Maoist threats.
Using the “praja court” as a platform to elucidate the difficulties this had thrown up, Krishna told the adivasis, “How do we take a rig (to dig bore wells) to provide drinking water? How do we bring electricity? How are we going to ensure teachers stay there without even minimum facilities?” Finally, the Maoist’s court found Krishna acquitted of all the charges. Krishna acknowledged the area’s underdevelopment was rooted in the legacy of the dam. “It is now recognised everywhere that rehabilitation issues should get priority.” But he described the Maoists obstruction of roads and bridges—based on the reasoning that it would lead to an influx of security forces—as ‘very unfortunate’.
WHY UP NEEDS GOAT REARING MORE
■ The availability of cultivated land and water in UP has been decreasing rapidly year-by-year and posing serious threats to agriculture in years to come.
■ Drought and flood are common phenomena for Uttar Pradesh.
■ More than 70 per cent farmers of the state are small and marginal. Apart from this, a majority of households are also land less.
■ A large section of people of the state has been migrating to other areas for livelihood.
■ There is a need for diversification in agriculture. The allied activities, such as live stock, poultry, fishing, bee-keeping, etc, are very important in present scenario.
■ Among the allied sectors of agriculture, live stock plays a significant role in economic development of the state.
■ More than 31 commodities of live stock products are being exported from India of which meat and its preparation are main export products.
His speech appeared to have struck a chord with the adivasis. Krishna said the public response left him ‘surprised’. “I felt we have hardly done anything, why are people responding (with so much support)?” Hinting that the denouement may have deviated from the Maoist script, he said, “They did what they had to do and people of the area have told them what they wanted to tell.”
Last but not least, with the abduction of the Malkangiri Collector, the Maoists in Odisha have once again struck at the soft underbelly of the state and notched up another tactical victory against the government. The government, which till recently was basking in the series of successes of the Odisha Police in its anti-Naxal operations, now finds itself caught on the wrong foot. The latter is now faced with the Hobson’s choice of either risking the hostages being executed or barter away its gains by submitting to the demands of the Naxals. Either way the state would be the loser. The Maoists are taking advantage of the situation and are pressing hard for concessions to their ever-increasing demands, eight of which have already been acted upon. They are negotiating now from a position of strength and the state by agreeing to most of their demands, including release of three top cadres, has weakened its stand.
By Kishore Dash from Bhubaneswar