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In former Maoist citadel, Jharkhand government instils hope




Located in the hilly and forested terrains of Jhumra Pahar, Sarju village in Garu Tehsil of this district was, till a few years ago, known as a “Maoist citadel”. Now it is development that is talk of the area.

A multi-pronged approach combining initiatives of the security forces and the Jharkhand government’s development policies has instilled hope in the locals.

Officials claim the ultra-left Maoist militants are now returning to the mainstream and the villagers, who were their victims, want mobile connectivity, roads to their homes, education, jobs and other developmental measures.

In a recent public outreach programme organised by the district administration at the compund of the Sarju school, hundreds of villagers turned up with their demands and complaints.

One of them, Mamata Devi, said: “We want jobs. There must be some training centres so that we can earn bread and butter for our family.”

Taramuni Devi, a mukhiya or village head, complained about poor roads and irrigation problems while a youth raised the issue of lack of educational institutions. “For internet connection, we have to go five km away,” he said.

Mohammad Saadish talked of unemployment and demanded a ban on liquor. “We have got rid of Naxals (as the Maoists are also called), but liquor and unemployment are still big problems. Most of the youth of the region are drug addicts and do not get employment. The administration needs to address this urgently,” he said.

Rajiv Kumar, Deputy Commissioner of Latehar, assured the villagers that their demands would be fulfilled and issues sorted out.

“Who among you have not got gas cylinders? Are your children going to schools? Are you getting vridha (old-age) pension,” Kumar asked the villagers, and most of them respond with “Yes”.

Chorha is the gram panchayat of Sarju village. While the total geographical area of the village is 172 hectares, Sarju has a total population of about 1,000 people. Garu is the nearest town.

The CRPF’s 214 battalion has made its base camp in Sarju, and with the help of the district administration they are trying to instill hope in the villagers and asking the Maoists to return to the mainstream.

Saket Kumar Singh, DIG at Jharkhand Jaguar, a Special Task Force (STF) to counter extremist activities in Jharkhand, told IANS: “The Maoists have no cadres now. The organisations are left with their leaders only. They do not have any specific hideout. They keep roaming from one place to another.”

Prashant Anand, SP of Latehar said: “Their activities have been restricted to only some pockets. Their splinter groups are active but they don’t get villagers’ support. Villagers support us and inform us whenever they see any activity (of Maoists).”

Speaking about the modus operandi of Maoists, he said that they come in a group of four and five and ask villagers to give four-five youths.

“They take them and initially involve them in cooking and other menial work. Later, they train them and push them ahead during an operation. Once their name appears in the police record, the Maoists instill fear in them that if they return, they will be killed. Because of that fear, they do not join the mainstream.”

Surrendered Naxal Chashma Vikas, who had more than 20 cases against him, including that of murder, attempt to murder and under the Arms Act, had a reward of Rs 25 lakh. He was a member of the Special Area Committee for Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh and had been involved in Naxal activities since 1998.

“Due to the new surrender policy I surrendered before the police in 2016,” he said. As per the policy, the reward money would be handed over to the surrendered activist.

“I came in contact with people belonging to the Maoist ideology during my college days. Influenced by them, I joined MCC and started working with them. I also participated in various pro-people movements in Chatra, Palamu, Latehar and other parts of the state.

“In 1996, I went underground as lots of cases were registered against me. Then I joined CPI (Maoist). Till 2016, I worked for the party. Initially, the policies and principles of the party were pro-people. We built several schools in Palamu, Latehar and other regions.

“Whatever money we collected was used for public welfare. But later, their policies and principles changed. They started attacking police forces and killing innocents. Also, the levy collected for the movement was distributed among top commanders,” he alleged.

He said after the Jharkhand government brought out a new surrender policy and the administration contacted him asking to surrender, he refused.

“Because I feared that I would be killed or I would have to spend the rest of my life in jail. I insisted that I would surrender if all the cases against me are taken back. They assured me. They even convinced my family members. After all this, I surrendered myself,” he said.

He said that after his surrender, almost 100 Maoists in the the three states have surrendered.

R.K. Mallick, Additional D.G. (Ops), said that in the present scenario the sphere of influence of Naxals has been severely restricted and mainly confined to few pockets in the bordering areas of adjoining states and some interior, inaccessible areas within the state.

“The last six months in Jharkhand have been exceptional on the Naxal front. There has been a 24 per cent reduction in incidents of violence, 31 per cent reduction in civilian killings, 100 per cent increase in exchange of fire and 59 per cent increase in arms recovered — all parameters of operational efficiency.

“Till August this year, 40 successful encounters against Naxals took place, in which 24 Naxals were neutralised, including five Naxals who had rewards on their head and four surrendered Naxals. However, nine personnel of the State Police, CAPFs and Jharkhand Jaguar were killed during anti-Naxal operations in the first seven months of 2018,” he said.

In Jharkhand, 21 out of 24 districts are so-called Naxal-affected. At present, out of the 30 worst Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected districts in the country, 13 are in Jharkhand. They are Hazaribargh, Lohardaga, Palamu, Chatra, Garhwa, Ranchi, Gumla, Simdega, Latehar, Giridih, Bokaro, West Singhbhum, Khunti. Saraikela, Kharsawa,East Singhbhum, Dhanbad, Koderma, Ramgarh.

(Brajendra Nath Singh, who visited Latehar on the initiative of BJP’s Good Governance Cell, can be contacted at [email protected])


The US presidential elections and future of India-US relations




Donald Trump Joe Biden

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on November 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of US-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the US and India is “functional”. The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media s saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedlly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005. At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the US had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)

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Covid-19 toll across world crosses 35,000

The COVID-19 is affecting 132 countries and territories around the world.



Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

New Delhi, March 30 : The death toll around the world due to coronavirus crossed 35,000 on Monday evening, with Italy heading the list of 35,097 deaths with 10,779, while the number of cumulative cases rose to 737,929, with US leading with 143,055 of them, as per data from the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Spain was second with 7,340 deaths, followed by China with 3,308 (3,186 of them in Hubei where the outbreak was first recorded), Iran with 2,757 deaths, France with 2,606 deaths, the US with 2,513 (776 of them in New York) and the UK with1,228 deaths.

In number of cases, Italy was second with 97,689, followed by Spain with 85,195, China with 82,198, Germany with 62,435, Iran with 41,495 and France with 40,747.

Meanwhile, 156,652 people around the world had recovered, with nearly half of them (75,923) in China, followed by 16,780 in Spain, 13,911 in Iran and 13,030 in Italy.

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45% of Indians do not back up their data, files: Survey

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.




Data Privacy

New Delhi, March 30 : Nearly half of Indians do not back up because they think their data or files are not important enough and most of those who back up their data, do it once a month, a survey said on Monday.

Other reasons cited by the respondents for not backing up their data included not knowing how to do it, not having time and forgetting about it, according to the survey by cybersecurity company Avast.

“It could be that many aren’t aware they are backing up, as it could be happening automatically, in the background, however, others really might not be backing up at all, thinking it is not worth it,” Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast, said in a statement.

“Losing personal documents, photos and videos can be a painful experience and it’s not until this happens that they realize how valuable it actually is,” Corrons added.

Of those who do back up their data, nearly 42 per cent Indians back up to a cloud storage, 36 42 per cent back up their data to an external hard drive, 23 42 per cent back up to a USB or flash disk, 18 42 per cent back up their phone to their PC, and 10 42 per cent back up to a network storage drive, the results showed.

Corrons recommended to back up data to two different locations, like the cloud, and a physical storage, like an external hard drive.

When it comes to iPhone and Android phone owners, the percentage that backs up is nearly the same, 69 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

The percentage of smartphone owners that don’t know how to back up their data does not vary much between iPhone and Android owners, with 13 per cent and 17 per cent claiming not knowing how to, respectively, the study revealed.

Data loss can be caused by users accidentally deleting their data themselves, hardware damage and failure, as well as malware, causing valuable data such as photos, videos, documents, and messages to be lost forever.

Ransomware and other malware, such as wipers, can either encrypt or completely destroy files, and there is no guarantee that files can be decrypted if a ransom is paid.

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.

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COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.