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Munda seeks war chest

New Delhi, Sept. 15: Chief minister Arjun Munda today asked for a Rs 388-crore grant from the Centre to tackle extremism.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today, Munda placed the demand for Central assistance to set up village protection committees (gram raksha dals) in about 6,000 hamlets in Naxalite-affected areas across Jharkhand.

Each committee would comprise around 30 members from the village. “The Prime Minister’s response to the proposal has been positive. Something is expected to turn up soon,” said a source close to the chief minister.

Village protection committees have played a key role in combating extremism in all terror hotbeds. The government is, therefore, convinced that the villagers have to be armed to battle the Naxalites.

Originating in Punjab, villages in states ravaged with extremism have been encouraged to form groups to take on the rebels in view of the limited resources available with security forces to provide protection to all villages.

Earlier in Jharkhand, a few committees were formed but they lacked the teeth to take on the highly-armed Naxalites.

Additionally, what has made the constitution of these units necessary is the failure of the “police approach” to curb extremism, besides the slow pace of development which could have provided employment avenues.

A socio-economic response to the problem, reflecting in speedy development of the rural areas, is an equally daunting task. The government feels forming armed village committees is the easiest way to tackle Naxalism as it would mean turning a sizeable chunk of the rural folk into opponents of the movement.

Sources said the recent lynching of extremists in Longo village of West Singhbhum is a cause for concern as there is the possibility of retaliation by the rebel cadre. “Arming the gram raksha dal has become the need of the hour,” said an official.

The chief minister also proposed a grant of Rs 127 crore from the Centre for the upgradation of four state highways that were recently taken over as national highways.

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