New Delhi: Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for an all-party meeting on the Naxal strategy, the Rural Development Ministry has launched a new programme in 24 districts that are badly affected by left-wing extremism. Named 'Roshni', the programme aims to provide training and employment to 50,000 youths in these districts.
Sukma, Bijapur, Kanker and Narayanpur in Chhattisgarh, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, Latehar in Jharkhand, Malkangiri and Koraput in Odisha and Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh are some of the districts where these training centers will come up. Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is taking the development offensive right to the doorstep of Naxal stronghold with the aim of weaning the youth away from Maoist ideology.
The programme will focus on particularly vulnerable tribal groups. It will target youth in conflict areas between 18 and 35 years of age.
It targets class 10th and 12th dropouts and 50 per cent of those selected will be women. Private organisations will be roped in for training, while state governments will be responsible for providing security.
Training providers must guarantee employment to 75 per cent of those selected. ROSHNI will have a budget of Rs 100 crores over the next three years, of which central government will provide 75 per cent while states to provide 25 per cent.
"This is not tokenism. We will focus on those blocks that are worst affected by left-wing extremism in these districts, the youth will also be selected from those blocks," said Ramesh. The May 25 attack in Chhattisgarh that wiped out the state's Congress leadership has sparked the old debate on how best to address the Maoist challenge - should the government focus on development or should it go for a security offensive?
Ramesh is clearly still stressing on development as the answer. The Prime Minister has called for an all-party meeting on the Maoist challenge and while many political parties may insist on sterner action for now there is no consensus.
Speaking earlier in the week at a meeting of the Chief Ministers, Narendra Modi, for instance said, "There should be a two pronged strategy to deal with Maoists - one for those areas that have already been affected and another for those areas that Naxals have their eye on. In December 2011, the government said in Parliament that Naxals were planning to target six cities. The Pune, Ahmedabad, Golden Corridor is also on their list,"
What is worrying the political class is the fact that the Naxals have been able to attract the youth in these areas. With this new programme, which aims to train fifty thousand people for employment, Ramesh hopes to win over these youths and bring them back to mainstream.