Saturday, May 01, 2010

Administrative Quick Reaction Teams

It is, but a matter of time, when the CRPF or some other security force marches into Dantewada and 'liberates' the area. The place may or may not become a classic 'battlefield' depending on whether the Naxals choose to give battle or vacate to strike again at a time and place of their own choosing. My previous article explained the role of the security forces in a counter-insurgency like situation. This article dwells upon the action to be taken 'After the battle of Dantewada'.

Let us imagine the scenario in a village after the battle. The place would be littered with evidence of the battle - gory mutilated bodies of Naxals in fatigues, fired cartridge cases, blood stained hideouts, press vehicles and reporters, jubilant troops in khakhi or battle fatigues, burnt Naxal camps, seized arms and ammunitions and so on.

Cut to the local population and the sullen, resentful and wary faces tell a different story. Some of the locals would have fled to the more peaceful places while some would have opted to stay. To stay would mean being accused of assisting the Naxals - whether by choice or default - would be an immaterial fact for the accusers. To flee would mean uprooting from one's land - in a sense, uprooting one's life itself. The Naxals too would be accusing these same people of assisting the security forces. Revenge killings would commence. In this scenario, criminals would take advantage of the situation, posing as Naxals to carry out their crimes and where feasible, posing as security forces operating in mufti as well!

Within days of the 'Fall of Dantewada', the security forces would have moved on to press home the advantage and in keeping with the principle of 'maintenance of momentum' . Our village would now at best be a transit point for troops, press personnel and so on who would now use the chai shop that would have come up by now, to replenish before moving on to the 'front' where the fighting would now be taking place. By now new glories or blunders by the security forces would have cynosure of the press and government and our village would be limping back to normalcy, adjusting to new found infamy till the government once again forgot about them and Naxals re-discovered them.

This is where we need to see an Administrative Quick Reaction Team coming into the scenario to take stock, provide much needed succour for the locals and assuage their feelings. This Team should comprise all the basic necessary staff to enable a seamless transition of the 'liberated' areas from the security forces administration to civil administration. Thus there is a need to have local police, local revenue representatives, local medical staff, local education staff and whatever else local administration constitutes - ready in the wake of the security forces to move into the 'liberated' areas and quickly establish themselves as the legitimate face of the government. Their conduct must be impeccable and they must address those very issues which led the people astray in the first place - being lack of development or anything else which led to the alienation of the population. They should be compassionate and seen to be compassionate as well. They should enable all local employment facilities such as NREGA etc, what ever works for that area, to move in and start hiring people or buying their produce or simply enroling them as labourers. Construction of roads, laying of power lines and other infrastructural activities must commence urgently. For all this to be done, planning and preparation is essential. The hithertofore missing administrative staff must be located and brought to one place, adeqately equipped, briefed and trained in their tasks. They need to be reassured that they would be operating in the vicinity of the security forces and hence would probably not be targetted by the Naxals. Then they would need to be properly tasked - the education officer would have to tell his staff to count the children in a village and allot them a place for a school and organise quick construction of a school and appoint teachers - all in a weeks time. Likewise some one would have to put together a plan to purchase what ever produce they harvest e.g. tendu leaves etc, some one would have to organise prompt medical camps and quickly establish a dispensary on a permanent basis.

They would now have to be 'embedded' - for want of a better word - with the security forces so that they are able to make the maximum impact in the minimum time immediately after the target population is 'liberated' .

These Administrative Quick Reaction Teams will thereafter need to be followed up with regular administration on a long term basis. This will be the basis of rebuilding the place so that the population has a choice that the Naxals do not creep back and re-establish themselves into the place vacated by the security forces. Without these Teams, there is no point trying to go after the Naxals. Without providing alternatives, going after the Naxals will simply find the security forces creating more Naxals rather than solving the problem.

Local politics, micro-level sentiments and so on are best understood by the dedicated administrative staff at the level of the DM and below. They are the best placed to provide the suggestions for solutions which need to be implemented to successfully complete the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) loop. And to stay ahead of the Naxals this loop needs to be constantly shortened.

All the best Reena Kangale, District Magistrate, Dantewada.

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