Latest official figures compiled till the end of November 2007 reveal that security forces suffered heavy casualties in the fight against the Maoists, as 214 personnel were killed compared to 133 during the same period in 2006. Though the number of incidents of Naxal violence was 1,385 -- almost the same as 1,398 in 2006 -- the causalities suffered by civilians was less.
While 418 civilians were killed till November 2007, the toll was 501 during 2006, reflecting a shift in the Maoists' strategy, a news website quoted Home Ministry sources, as saying.
Rather than targeting the people, the Naxalites have set their eyes on economic installations, with the Railways bearing the worst brunt in the badly affected states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, making senior officials in the security establishment sit up.
Realising that the menace, described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at regular internal security meetings as the "single biggest security challenge" to the country, cannot be dealt with the gun alone.
The Centre is concentrating on evolving a holistic plan with focus on all-round development to win away-misguided youth.
A senior Home Ministry official attributed the higher number of casualties in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand mainly to increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and landmines by Naxalites.
He said attacks on security forces, killings of people who resist Naxalite atrocities, extortion, violence and continuous counter-operations by security forces against them led to the high toll figures.
The official admitted that reports continued to come in regarding attacks on police and police establishments and on certain types of infrastructure like rail and road transport and power transmission towers, as was witnessed in Chattisgarh last year, creating maximum impact among the people.
The economic blockades are instances of their changed strategy.
Intelligence reports said the Maoists were not only consolidating, getting stronger and bolder, but were also developing the capability of launching frontal attacks on police forces and establishments in some areas with the help of sophisticated weapons.
In view of better coordination among the Maoists who have access to enhanced firepower, some states in the eastern and central parts of the country, including Bihar and Jharkhand, are toying with the idea joining hands against the Naxals.
These states are preparing to share information and coordinate with one another in adjoining border areas to crush the ultras.