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Since 1st March, 1999
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Pat for Mamata

Puducherry, Feb. 10: Union minister Jairam Ramesh today held up Mamata Banerjee’s approach to tackling Maoists through “political mobilisation” as a model and urged Congress-ruled states fighting the menace to emulate the strategy.

“In Jungle Mahal, the TMC (Trinamul) is a major political entity. It is able to draw cadres. It is organising rallies being attended by youths who give up the ideology of Maoism. My appreciation for what Mamata Banerjee and (Trinamul MP) Subhendu Adhikari are doing in the area,” the minister, who visited the rebel-hit Bengal zone last month, told an editors’ meet here.

The praise comes days after allies Congress and Trinamul were locked in a war of words over central assistance, especially grants for backward regions that Ramesh’s ministry sanctions or processes.

Today, Ramesh offered an unequivocal endorsement of Mamata’s approach on the rebels. “Political mobilisation is key to tackling the Maoist problem, which has been described by the Prime Minister as the biggest threat to internal security. Development and use of police force are other components of the fight against the Naxalites.”

The main problem in the country’s 78 Maoist-affected districts, including three in Bengal, is lack of development, Ramesh said.

The problem can be overcome by providing employment and skill training to the youths, drinking water facilities, roads and other basics. But the development drive, the minister said, will have to go hand in hand with the operations of police and paramilitary forces in these areas.

Ramesh, who has visited all the 78 districts, has discussed with Mamata the specific problems of Jungle Mahal.

His ministry is working on a package to launch several projects in the region, which comprises pockets drawn from the three districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.

Ramesh’s ministry recently sanctioned Rs 1,011 crore for the first phase of a drinking water supply project in Bankura. The minister has written letter to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to approve similar projects in the other two rebel-hit districts.