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India’s government works with NGOs in the fight against insurgency March 7, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Future Directions International, Guest authors, India , trackback

Jay Vella

First published in Future Directions International on 29 February 2012

Maoist insurgents in India are harming the livelihoods of rural communities. Access to food is being lost in areas under Maoist control, as a result of violence and coercion. In an effort to reach vulnerable sections of the population, the government is employing new strategies, with the assistance of NGOs.

The government of India plans to enlist the support of NGOs in reaching rural communities in central India that have been isolated by Maoist insurgents, reports the Hindustan Times. Government services, such as welfare and agricultural support, have been obstructed by the terrorist activities of the insurgents. The public-private partnership will aim to implement development programs in areas that have previously had their economic progress hampered by India’s conflict. This will take place under the umbrella of the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF), an organisation comprised of government bodies and NGOs that will deploy resources to badly affected communities.

Maoist rebels intimidate rural communities through extreme violence, land acquisition, compulsory labour strikes and the forced relocation of villagers. The result of India’s internal conflict is growing poverty, which manifests itself in high rates of hunger and malnutrition. In recent years, the violence employed by Maoist rebels has seen people die of poverty, starvation and treatable illnesses. Their actions particularly impact on the tribal communities and farmers, whose livelihoods depend on stability and, in many cases, the uninterrupted sale of agricultural goods. People of rural communities are losing their access to food due to loss of agricultural fields and disruption of their income.

Ironically, it was the government’s failure to ensure food security over the previous two decades that saw the successful spread of extreme-leftist ideology. Maoist groups now control large areas of rural India, equating to nearly one-third of the country, and it appears that the tactics of the terrorists are now eroding the food security that was once the primary motivation for their uprising.

The persistent use of force by the Indian government has been ineffective and, in fact, has worsened the poor conditions faced by India’s rural inhabitants. Given the longevity of India’s insurgency and its likely continuation, state and non-state actors must look to new strategies that will ameliorate the position of those at risk of food insecurity. Development programs, such as that conducted by the BRLF, are necessary to provide communities with the tools and assistance necessary to liberate themselves from the negative effects of conflict

These strategies will also assist in the recovery of communities that have been subjected to violent attacks. Violence perpetuates the substandard conditions existing in India’s rural areas, the most recent example of which was the murder of a tribal elder last week in India’s Koraput district, in the state of Orissa.

Despite the disruption caused by the ongoing conflict, the communities of the Koraput district were last month recognised by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) for their vital services to food security in India. The region has been declared a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) site for promoting food security, biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and sustainable development. This highlights the positives that come from innovative strategies, indicating that non-military measures have the best capacity to further improve the plight of India’s rural population.

Jay Vella is Research Analyst, FDI Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme

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