New Delhi, Oct. 8: A bit of plainspeak by the Prime Minister on the breakdown of law and order in Manipur appears to have paved the way for radical strategy changes, including the entry of a security adviser to do the thinking for the state government.
A retired army or police officer of chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s choice could be the man for the job, sources said.
As and when the Union home ministry gives the green signal, Manipur will become the first state in the country to have a security adviser. Being the final decision-making authority on security, he will be expected to lend the cutting edge to strategies and ensure better co-ordination between police and paramilitary forces.
Manmohan Singh and Union home minister Shivraj Patil made it clear during the October 3-4 conference of police chiefs that they were far from satisfied with the handling of the law and order in Manipur, Assam and Nagaland. Pressure has since started building on Ibobi Singh within the Congress, too, and there are indications that the party will formally sound him out. “It will, of course, be left to him to choose a security adviser,” a senior party leader.
Over 300 militancy-related incidents were reported from Manipur in the past 10 months. Civilian casualties increased from 40 in the first six months of 2006 to 72 during the corresponding period this year. The number of security forces killed in action shot up.
Last month, Thomba Singh (name changed), a Manipur State Co-operative Society member, paid the price for not acceding to a militant group’s demand for cash. He was shot in the leg and is now in New Delhi for treatment.
As many as 80 government officials and their families live in the state-run guesthouse in Imphal. Such is the level of insecurity in the hinterland that a forest officer posted in Thoubal district has shifted his office to the Imphal guesthouse.
“The number of officers and families staying in the guesthouse is increasing day after day,” Thomba Singh said.
For Ibobi Singh, who not only broke the jinx of chief ministers not lasting their full term in Manipur but also retained power, maintaining a semblance of law and order has proved to be infinitely tougher.
Home ministry sources said valley-based outfits like the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup, United National Liberation Front and the People’s Liberation Army were the main threats. Most of these groups have extortion networks that funnel upto 20 per cent of public money to their coffers. This is either through direct extortion or by grabbing government contracts for their conduits.
Most political parties allegedly have members who are in league with the extortionists.
The director-general of police, Y. Joykumar, said from Imphal that none of these militant groups was inclined to come to the negotiating table. “We are trying our level best, but there has been no response from these groups so far.”