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Impact of Naxalism on Development

February 26, 2012

SUSHANT VEER

ME09B058

Red Corridor

The impact of Naxalism over the development of the affected states is undoubtedly negative if measured with respect to the conventional economic markers employed for measuring development, namely GDP and per capita income. It is the social and political impacts of Naxalism on development that really leaves all in a fix. There have been multiple opinions about these aspects and the confusing bit is that all factions seem to be convinced of their part of the story and have logical reasons and events supporting it. In my view this is bound to happen considering the duration and the proportion of this movement. Naxalism has been in view since 1960’s and has spread across the states of – West Bengal, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and eastern U.P. and recently there have been mobilization attempts in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh as well. Though all Naxal groups are bound by a common ideology they tend to act and react in different ways and affect a diverse kind of population which lead to varied opinions.

IMPACT ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The economic condition of a state plays a pivotal role in its development. The Naxalite movement has severely impacted the economy of the affected states as well as India as a whole.

The major macroeconomic effects of the Naxal movement are :-

1. Reduction in per capita GDP growth – The nominal per capita GDP of all affected states excluding Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra is below 1000 $. In comparison to this most of the unaffected states have a per capita GDP in excess of 1000 $ for the 2009 fiscal year. Kindly follow the link for statistics : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_states_by_GDP ,

2. Higher inflation rates

3. Lower tax revenues – The Naxals run a parallel government in their areas preventing the governing agencies to collect taxes etc.

4. Lower domestic investment and higher expenditure on defense at the cost of lower expenditure on education and health

5. Lower exports, reduced bilateral trade flows and reduced foreign direct investment inflows. – Due to the Naxal violence and their extortion business foreign and domestic investment remains low. These problems are coupled with the lack of good transportation facilities which are also a victim of Naxal violence.

Micro-economic effects include lower tourist inflows, lower regional tourism market share, reduced usage of public transport, reduced long term investments in agriculture and other potential sectors, reduced enrollment in schools, lower job availability and lack of substantial opportunities

Some instances of Naxal violence adversely affecting the trade and economy are – damaging road construction machinery, shutting down and destroying bank branches, damage to railway lines, highways and telecom towers thereby inhibiting communication and transport and destruction of the pipeline for transporting iron ore slurry in Chattisgarh. According to reports, power and steel industry projects in Chattisgarh with investments of the order of Rs.130billion were stagnated due to Naxalite disturbances.

All in all it’s a very grim economic condition which affects all sectors of industry and all class of people.

POSITIVE SOCIAL & POLITICAL IMPACTS

As elaborated above the economic implications of the Naxalite movement are not so positive but still the movement has sustained for nearly 45 years and seems far from losing its steam. This has been possible only because the Naxalites have received unwavering support from the lower caste villagers and adivasis who were time and again crushed by the higher caste zamindars or governance authorities before the Naxal surge. A plethora of reasons contribute towards their sustained support:-

  1. Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 placed the reserved forests of the entire country in the hands of the Centre. No portion of these reserves could be utilized without the prior permission of the government. This rule led to the eviction of many adivasis from the forests and their frequent abuse by the hands of forest officers. The Naxalites stepped into such disputes and provided protection to these adivasis from the forest officers as well as eviction from their habitat. This is a perfect example of the adversities attached to centralization.
  2.  The law and administration provides no succor to displaced people and treats them with hostility since such internally displaced forest dwellers tend to settle down again in some forest region which is prohibited. The Naxalite movement has come to the aid of such victims. The reason for displacement of people normally is extremes of poverty and social oppression, due to some irrigation or power plant projects and poor evicted from government lands. One such example was the displacement of adivasis by irrigation projects in Orissa who migrated to the forests of Andhra Pradesh. Without Naxal intervention these adivasis would have been evicted by forest officials from there as well.
  3. The Minimum Wages Act remains an act on paper for most of the rural India. It is reported that the Naxalites have ensured payment of decent wages to the labourers. A famous example of this is the increase in payment rates secured by the Naxalites for tendu leaf pickers used for rolling beedis. The exploitation was so severe that the rates over the years increased over fifty times what the tendu patta contractors used to pay.
  4. The pressure exerted by the Naxalite movement has had some effect in ensuring proper attendance of teachers, doctors etc. in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra  and Chattisgarh.
  5. In the matter of physical infrastructure like roads, school buildings, etc., the Naxalite movement has on certain occasions exerted pressure for its improvement but in certain locations and various occasions they have obstructed the laying of roads, rail lines and construction activites for the fear of police and paramilitary raids.
  6. The slogan of the Naxalites from the beginning has been ‘land to the tillers’. They nearly brought an end to the absentee landlordism system although this activity is still prevalent in some places. The land seized from the rich landlords was given in the hands of the peasants who cultivated that land. This reallocation of land alleviated the situation of peasants. Either very rich land lords were targeted who would not be substantially affected by loss of a few acres of land or the cruel land lords were. Although there have been instances when such land acquisitions have occurred due to political or personal reasons rather than just ones.
  7. Partly because of the efforts of the government and partly because of the Naxal threat bonded labour or ‘begar’ (bonded labour) has been nearly abolished.
  8. The Equal Remuneration Act is yet another law made by the government that just proved to be a paper tiger. There has been no specific improvement in the situation of women in the Naxal ruled areas although there have been no reports of atrocities against women as well. The pay difference between men and women continue under the Naxal rule also. There are certainly some women in the Naxal cadres and the movement is supported by women.

A Woman Among Naxalite Cadres

From the looks of it, it seems that the Naxalite movement attempted to achieve equity in the society by means of class struggle and they did achieve it to some extent but at the cost of the economic development of the state.

NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF THE NAXAL MOVEMENT AND SECURITY FORCES

The recent increase in militancy amongst the Naxal cadres has attracted a lot of criticism. The Indian Government has gone ahead and stated that Naxalites are now the single biggest internal security threat for the country.

The immediate economic and social problems of the masses took a back seat and the battle for the supremacy with the state became the central theme. There have been a range of acts of violence which have no direct consequence on the rights of the people but invariably end up harming the masses.

Naxalites have always attempted to disrupt elections thereby not only preventing masses from choosing their leaders but also inhibiting them from exercising their fundamental right to vote.

In April 2010, NDTV reported that the Naxals in the Jharkhand region have set aside their ideals and emerged as a mining mafia. The report claims that a multi crore mining scam is being staged by the Naxalites.

The Maoist extortion business is estimated to be around a whopping 2000 crore rupees. All contractors have to pay 5-10% of the project cost to Naxalites as ‘protection money’.

There have been repeated incidents of Naxalites blowing up schools, trains and rail lines apart from government buildings which harm the common masses more than the politburo of governance.

A Sabotaged School

There have been reports that Naxals physically torture police informers by gruesome acts like beheading, hacking of limbs and even gouging out of eyes. Another incident that happened on 6 July 2007 when a group of armed Naxalites extorted Rs 65,000 from a farmer in Chikmagalur went on to demonstrate that the Naxals have lost the principles for which they fought once and are adversely affecting the lives of the people they once sought to help.

Masses have suffered from both the ends, i.e. by the hands of the security forces as well as the Naxalites. Salwa Judum which was a militia set up with the approval of the government to counter the Naxals caused the displacement of  43,740 people as of 31, December 2006 from Chattisgarh. Security forces have also been alleged of recruiting minors as SPO’s (Special Police Officers) in the Salwa Judum. Salwa Judum has been alleged of practicing vigilante justice and their activist have been held responsible for heinous crimes like torture, rape and non-judicial executions.

Often villages and adivasis are caught in the cross firing between the security forces and the Naxals causing loss of life and property.

The Naxalites sure did bring about some equity and relief for the marginalized category of rural India from the rampant feudal ill activities but that has come at a huge cost for the entire nation in terms of both economic development and safety of the citizens. Moreover this movement no longer holds its people-centric approach. It has more or less become a terrorist group with only one principle which is to seize power.

Development of these areas is a steep challenge, not only are they economically, socially stunted but these areas have people suffering from a much more unfortunate condition of not being able to exercise their fundamental rights. The policy for rehabilitating the affected areas should be to start development from grass root level. The only possible way for any progressive activity to take place in these areas is by peaceful negotiations and ceasefire.

 

REFERENCES

[1] Rahul Nilakantan and Saurabh Singhal, 2010, “The economic costs of naxalite violence and the economic benefits of a unique robust security response,” WEAI 2010

[2] An Expert Group, names not specified, 2008, “Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas,” Report to the Planning Commission, Government of India

[3] John Harriss, 2010, “The Naxalite/Maoist Movement in India: A Review of Recent Literature,” ISAS Working Paper

[4]   Author’s name not specified, 2007, “Naxal Conflict in 2006,” Asian Centre for Human Rights

[5] http://naxalwatch.blogspot.in/

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_states_by_GDP

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