Chhattisgarh Maoist attack

The killing of 73 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men in Chhattisgargh state by Maoist insurgents is a stark reminder that, despite all its claims of development and progress, trouble is brewing in India. While the Indian government has been busy pumping billions into the defence budget, Maoist guerrillas have been organising and spreading imperceptibly through the resource-rich rural, tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Despite fighting the Naxalite movement for decades and crushing it with all its might, the Indian government has not been able to eliminate it. As the newspapers reported, New Delhi has been caught by surprise by this latest attack in the forests of Dantewada district where the Maoist guerrillas ambushed a police patrol and later also fired at the reinforcements that came to collect the bodies. Taking off from the Naxalbari village in West Bengal, this movement follows the model of revolution created by Mao Tsetung, hence the Maoist tag. Having undergone state repression for decades and near elimination in the 1970s in Indira Gandhi’s regime, the movement has seen a revival in the 1990s.

The subject is very familiar. Local people resisting an uncaring and exploitative government through organised insurgency. The insurgent districts of India, called the ‘red swath’, are rich in minerals and big mining companies are running their operations in several areas to line their own pockets while the government believes this is necessary to sustain the progress of India’s giant economy. Arguably, vested interests within the Indian government, fed by the rapacity of capital-driven motives, would like the government to crush the insurgent elements by force, hence Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that they pose the greatest threat to the Indian state. However, the government has failed despite repeated attempts and the guerrillas have returned with renewed vigour each time. The reasons are not difficult to surmise.

For all its ‘shining’, India is a land of great inequality. Millions of people live either at bare subsistence level or below. Failure to transfer the fruits of the economic boom to the marginalised, address the genuine demands of the insurgents and the people they represent, and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve has brought India to this pass. People on the margins of this economic miracle called ‘Shining India’ are obviously the main recruits of the revolution. The guerrillas today are better organised and far more effective and have been inflicting heavy damage to the state with their activities. Therefore, Manmohan Singh’s words are increasingly ringing true.

There are striking parallels in Pakistan as well, which is undergoing insurgency in Balochistan for similar reasons. There are attacks on state installations and target-killings of ethnicities other than the Baloch almost on a daily basis. The use of brute force, instead of quelling the insurgency, has bolstered the determination of the Baloch. Learning from India, one can argue that the insurgency is not going to go away. The solution lies elsewhere. They need to be heard and their due rights given to them, without prejudice.

Whatever the fate of the Naxalite movement, only time will tell. But it certainly poses a radically new paradigm not only for India, but also for the world that, until recently, had been celebrating the global triumph of capitalism. *

Second Editorial: Lapse of the CO

The ‘indecision’ of the government has allowed
the Competition Ordinance 2007 to lapse. The Ordinance that gives effect to the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) lapsed on March 27, leaving the commission, its employees, and the consumer in a state of limbo.

The importance of a competition commission in order to safeguard the interests of the people in a free market does not need emphasising. Monopolistic and oligopolistic tendencies, inherent trends in any capitalist system, are well known in our history. One has only to recall the infamous 22 families of the 1960s, whose tribe by now is no doubt larger, to understand that the citizen requires protection from the maximisation-of-profit-at-any-cost philosophy that permeates any free market system and which usually functions at the expense of the majority. The CCP was a big step in the right direction, especially under the watchful eye of its upright chairman, Khalid Mirza. The truth of the matter is that society and the people require this commission to protect their interests. The failure to provide such relief to the people can not only create economic unrest, it can cause social and political upheaval. The people of Pakistan are already struggling to cope with the recent increase in terrorism, which along with increasing inflation has effectively crippled the country’s economy and broken the back of the citizen. Hence, in these uncertain times the democratically elected government must not let vested interests and cartels dictate terms to it or the people. This government might have inherited a capitalist market system from its predecessor but should take steps to restrain the worst tendencies of such a system through a socially responsible free enterprise regime. Sadly, the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) has been unable to convince the government to re-promulgate the competition ordinance, despite the latter paying lip service to the ever prevalent menace of hoarders, black marketeers and cartels.

The PPP-led government must not only re-promulgate the Competition Ordinance 2010, it must immediately complete the legislative process to have it passed as an Act of parliament. That would help prevent the majority of our people being manipulated by a small select powerful few. *



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