Naxals find a target in Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan

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June 17, 2015

New Delhi: Is Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan becoming collateral damage of the spike in Maoist insurgency? The pace of building toilets, key to ending the problem of open defecation, is slower in Naxal insurgency affected states.

June 17, 2015

New Delhi: Is Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan becoming collateral damage of the spike in Maoist insurgency? The pace of building toilets, key to ending the problem of open defecation, is slower in Naxal insurgency affected states.

The Swachh Bharat mission is among the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi under which it targets to construct 60 million toilets. Photo: Sneha Srivastava/Mint

A senior government official said that toilet construction activities are not progressing at the desired pace in Naxal-affected areas.

According to government officials, state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) is constructing toilets under the Clean India Mission in coal-bearing areas.

Many of India’s coal mines are located in remote forests populated by tribals. Poverty, illiteracy and exploitation of labour are rife in these areas which form the pocketboroughs of Naxals. Money from illegal coal mining also fuels Maoist insurgency in these areas. The Naxal insurgency is particularly strong in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

“There would be problems in Maoist-affected areas. We are trying to do whatever we can,” said Anil Swarup, India’s coal secretary.

The Swachh Bharat mission is among the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi under which it targets to construct 60 million toilets. Of this, 5 million were built in 2014-15.

Commitments have also been made by other public sector units and private sector firms such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd, the philanthropy arm of Bharti Airtel Ltd and Ambuja Cements Ltd. The public and private sector have pledged to build 100,000 toilets.

Higher revenue to states may help contain the Maoist armed insurgency. The finances of coal-bearing states are expected to improve, with six coal rich states of Orissa, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh set to reap `3.35 trillion from coal-field auctions through upfront payments, revenue and royalty. Also, more money may accrue from a possible auction of coal linkages through which projects get assured supply of fuel at a discounted price.

“My understanding of the Naxal issue is that as development happens in the area and more and more people get employed, the incidents of Naxalism will come down. As you have more and more development, extremism takes a beating,” Swarup had earlier told Mint.

Many firms operating in the region pay off the Naxals as it is a way of life for companies that had to set up businesses in Naxal-or terrorism-affected areas.

Mint reported on 28 September 2011 about an official of the Ruias-led Essar Group who was arrested for allegedly paying protection money to Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. Essar Group had denied the allegations.

Donations made to the Swachh Bharat Mission were made eligible for deduction under the Income-tax Act in this year’s budget.

In September 2014, the cabinet committee on economic affairs approved the Swachh Bharat mission that was officially launched on 2 October 2014 for a period of five years. Initially, it will be implemented in 4,041 towns. The total cost of the campaign will be `62,009 crore, of which the Union government will contribute `14, 620 crore. The rest will be mobilized from other sources, including non-state entities.


Courtesy: LiveMint