Bhupesh Baghel, Chief Minister of Naxal affected state of Chhattisgarh, has said that Naxals could thrive in Chhattisgarh due to the deepening trust-deficit between tribals and authorities. Speaking on ‘Changing Chhattisgarh under New Leadership’ at an event in New Delhi, Baghel said that under the previous government Naxalism spread from 4 blocks to 40 blocks in the state, due to anti-tribal policies and behaviour of government agencies. Earlier no one talked to the tribal population to know about their sufferings. They responded to violence by violence and that resulted in widening the gap between the authorities and the tribal population, he said.
“Naxalism is not just a security or law and order problem. Naxals could infiltrate Chhattisgarh because of the trust deficit between the authorities and the tribals,” he said, “The biggest challenge for us is to bridge that trust deficit between the government and local people,” he added.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said that malnutrition is a much bigger threat than Naxal violence in the state and that his government is working hard to improve the health of the people. “Today malnutrition is a bigger threat than Naxalism in the state.” He said over 37 per cent of the state’s children under the age of 5 years are malnourished and more than 40% women in the age group of 15-49 years are anemic.
“We have started camps in some of the worst Naxal-infested areas of Dantewada and Bastar and gave hot, cooked meal to children and women there, as part of the Suposhan scheme. Out of 124 panchayats in the state, 109 now have this programme and on October 2, the ‘Suposhan’ scheme will be launched in all the districts,” he said.
To provide better medical facilities in interior areas, Baghel said he took the primary health centres in the local ‘haats’, so that more tribal people can come there for treatment.
“I am happy to share that the number of patients arriving at the local haats is 20 times higher than the patients arriving at the OPDs of a primary health centre and government hospitals,” he said, adding that it has brought the medical facilities much closer to the people.
Earning the trust
Highlighting the works of his government in the last eight months in the state, Baghel said, “After we came to power we returned the lands of the tribals which were acquired in 2006 but no industries was set up.”
“We returned 4,200 acres of land located in 1,700 villages to the tribal people,” he said. It was a step to win the trust of the tribal population by returning their land that was taken over by previous governments. “They realised that it was the first time that the government returned them their land. Next, I waived their loans,” he said.
He shared that today Chhattisgarh is the only state in the country where no farmer is indebted. He said to increase the income of the farmers his government also bought the paddies from them at the rate of Rs 2,500 per quintal which is much higher than any state government.
Development to focus on agriculture and small scale industries
Baghel also appealed to investors to come to Chhattisgarh and that his government will help them in providing land and power. Though, he added that the focus of his government is not on establishing large scale industrial complexes but on small and medium scale industries.
He also explained his mantra of rural development viz Narwa, Garwa, Ghurwa, Badi called as NGGB in official circles. Under it the development of pasture land, cattle and water resources are taken up. Referring to the water problem, he said, “Groundwater level is falling across the country. Thus I have made a scheme to recharge the groundwater in the state by working on the nallahs.” He said a detailed project report of over 1,028 nallahs has already been made.
He said that to counter the issue of stray cattle, his government has kept 3-5 acres of land only for stray cattle in different areas. “There we tell farmers to put their extra straw that they would otherwise be burnt so that the environment is not polluted and the cattle get their food too,” he said.
Baghel said that the focus of industrial development under his government would be to create job opportunities for locals and improve earnings of tribals. “Our industries, mines and power plants have not benefitted the locals. They have only added to the pollution. Now we are focussing on establishing small and medium businesses that would give value addition to the tribals and will boost local incomes,” said Baghel.
Making a strong pitch for preserving the forests of Chhattisgarh Baghel categorically opposed uranium mining in the state. He said that he was not interested in any more projects that would involve massive mining including that of uranium.
Elaborating on why he was opposed to large scale mining specially of uranium, Baghel said, “Chhattisgarh has 44% of its area under forest. I am very keen to preserve this pristine environment and don’t want any more mining of forests. Also, large scale mining, over these years, has not benefitted our people and it has only added to pollution.”