‘We must always keep the option of talks open, but no government can talk with them if they do not give up arms’
-Chief minister, Chhattisgarh, Dr Raman Singh   

What has been the highpoints of your tenure? What level of investments has come to Chhattisgarh and how have they contributed to the overall development of the state?

Chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Dr Raman Singh
Development needs a two-prong approach. Since nature has blessed Chhattisgarh with rich mineral resources, like iron ore, bauxite and coal, it is obvious that investment in these core sectors would have a cascading effect on the economy of the state. But for these investments to benefit and contribute to the overall development, we need suitable policy framework, which is the second prong. With this in mind, the moment I took over as chief minister, my determination was that any investment that comes into the state should have a direct advantage for the people of the state.

To make this happen, we took a few decisions way back in 2004. The first was that our resources should add value to our state. We shall allow mining rights to only those who would first benefit the state and subsequently the nation.

There is no point in mining iron ore in Chhattisgarh if it has to be exported to China, South Korea or Japan. The iron ore is a national resource which forms over a 1,000 years. Why must others take advantage of this? The result of this policy of value addition has been that we have been able to convince National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) to set up a plant in Chhattisgarh itself.
This is not to say that we have any objections to our mineral resources being sent to plants in other parts of the country. But some advantage should accrue directly to Chhattisgarh. In addition to this, we also decided in 2004 that we would not give mining rights for trading. That is the difference between Chhattisgarh and other states.

The second step we took was to increase the royalty that Chhattisgarh used to get for its resources. Earlier, the state used to get Rs 4,000 crore. We insisted that ad valorem tax should be based on the value of our resources. Though it took some time for us to get our way, we finally managed to fix Rs 18,000 crore royalty for the state. The third policy decision was that anybody who runs a power plant in the state would have to supply seven per cent of the total power generated to Chhattisgarh at variable cost as long as the plant functions. For instance, if a plant has the capacity of generating 1,000 mega watt of power, Chhattisgarh would have the right to buy 70 MW at the cost price. In addition to this, Chhattisgarh would have the first right of purchase on 30 per cent of the power generated in the state.

The advantage of this is that this enables us to provide power to the farmers at a reasonable rate. By bringing down our subsidy, it reduces the burden on the state government. In addition to this, in the core sector, like iron ore and aluminium, we allowed the investors to set up captive power plants for their needs. We told them that they did not have to buy power from the state government. Instead, they could generate their own power. This has helped in the growth of these sectors, as it brought down the running cost of industry. The fourth step that we took was to create the right atmosphere for investment. To ensure this, our focus has been to get the approval of the people for investments and development to the maximum extent possible. Industrialisation without the concurrence of the people means nothing and always leads to problems. To this end, way back in 2003-2004, we revised the land acquisition rates. Earlier, villagers were being given Rs 50,000 to one lakh for one acre of land.We fixed the rate between six lakh to 10 lakh per acre depending upon the quality of the land. Not only that, we linked development with the empowerment of the people by insisting that, at least one member of each family whose land has been acquired should be given employment. It is the result of the policies of my government that today NMDC is also building accommodation for the displaced people in Bastar.

We acquired 2,000 acres of land in Bastar and over 20,000 to 30,000 people came for the inauguration of the Nagarnar power plant as a mark of their approval. Nobody objected to the building of the power plant there, because obviously, the people also realised that this development would help in the education and well-being of their children. As I have been saying, if the policy framework is correct, development happens unhindered. By 2014, Chhattisgarh will be able to contribute 20 per cent of the nation’s total production of steel, cement and aluminium, even though its population is only two per cent of the national aggregate.

Now that we are talking about Bastar, the other side of the story is that a large part of the district is in the control of the Maoists. What is the state government’s policy to check this growing influence?

The Maoist problem is neither Bastar nor Chhattisgarh’s alone. It is a problem that afflicts six states and 140 districts of India. The ultimate aim of the Maoists is not the capture of Bijapur or Dantewada but to overthrow the democratic structure of India. They do not believe in democracy. They themselves are the accusers and the judiciary. They hold these so-called jan adalats where they chop off the limbs of those they accuse. Hence, this is a war between those who want to uphold democracy and those who want to destroy it. There are people who advocate peace and say that we must talk to the Maoists. Sure, we must always keep the option of talks open, but no government, whether in Chhattisgarh or at the Centre, can talk with them if they do not give up arms.

The reason we are witnessing more violence in Chhattisgarh is because the state is situated right in the middle. All along the borders of the state are other Maoist-affected regions of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. When the police force in independent India was conceived, it was never imagined that it would be required to fight a guerrilla war one day. The role of police was law and order. Because of this, our police forces have taken a little time to develop the skills and capabilities to take on the Maoists. But we have consistently been fortifying our response mechanism. We have strengthened our police stations, we have increased the number of our police force by recruiting over 20,000 personnel in the last few years and to give them jungle warfare skills, we opened a special school in Kanker. Now, as we develop our capabilities, obviously it will create friction with the Maoists, hence more violence in Chhattisgarh. On the positive side, it implies that the Maoists feel most threatened by the response of the Chhattisgarh government which is why they are trying to fight back tooth and nail. We are incurring some losses, but it is only natural that it should happen.

Would you say that you are satisfied with the progress your anti-Maoist operations are making?

To say that I am satisfied would not be correct. As I said earlier, it is not a war that can be fought by one state. When we put pressure on the Maoists in one area, they cross the interstate border and slip into the next state. The total area of Bastar is 40,000sqkm, which is more than the state of Kerala. Clearly, it is a large swathe of land to be combed by the police. Take the example of the brigand Veerappan who was pursued by the police of three states over 12 years before they could kill him. In Bastar, not only is the forest denser than Veerappan’s area of operation, there are thousands of Veerappans here. We are fighting a different kind of war here.

Are your boys doing any kind of training with the army at its Corps Battle School?

In guerrilla warfare, you cannot assess your success or failure by counting enemy’s or your losses. Here, you need a well-thought through strategy to gain gradual control over your territory. More control you gain, more possibilities you create for further movement. One cannot talk about this in terms of weeks or months or even a year. It is a process which can take longer than one imagines.
Going a step further, what we are doing now is age and regional profiling of our men to determine their skills. For instance, those from Bengal are good at swimming, boys from Uttarakhand can climb better and the Northeast ones are excellent at jungle warfare. We are taking these strengths of India to restructuring our QATs to optimise results. Even as we talk some of my boys are taking the examination for the best QAT in Kashmir. This is something that had not happened earlier.

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