What Congress Manifesto Says....
The Congress Manifesto states, ‘Left Wing Extremism will be dealt with a firm hand. We will strengthen our security forces deployed in LWE affected areas by augmenting equipment, infrastructure and manpower, while also pursuing a development agenda to empower locals.'
Sadly, even when this article was being written, a CRPF Deputy Commandant bled to death in Bihar after getting severely injured in an explosion, conducted by Maoists. For six hours, the CRPF officer did not get any medical help in spite of profusely bleeding and eventually died.
This incident is just one of several such instances which keep on happening day in and day out in the Maoist prone areas. Almost every year over the last one decade, there have been several major instances of ambushes and sabotage leading to death of thousands of civilians and police personnel. This includes the gruesome massacre of 76 CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh in 2010 and derailing of Gyaneshwari Express by Maoists in Bengal in which more than 150 people had died.
The UPA have for most of the period remained completely clueless as to how to deal with the menace of Maoist. Lack of cohesive national policy on the issue of dealing with Maoist menace has also been a major problem.
The Congress Manifesto likewise, remains silent on the issue of escalation of terror attacks in J&K as well instances of cross border ambushes on Indian outposts by Pakistani Army personnel. It is also silent on how it plans to prevent the recurrence of 26/11 kind of terror attacks.
Further, the manifesto does not mention anything about how it plans to stop the rise of indigenous radical extremist groups including the likes of Indian Mujahideen and SIMI. The issue of too many acquittals in terror related cases, communalising terrorism cases and confusing statements by ministers have not helped the cause of fight against terrorism.
The Reality Check
While Congress promises to augment the equipment and manpower of Central Police Forces deployed in Maoist areas, the shocking fact is that over the last one year or so, there has been drastic reduction in the allocations made to Central Police Forces for purchase of weapons and equipment. Reports state that during the financial year 2013-14, while the Central Police Forces like ITBP, CRPF, CISF, BSF and NSG had sought Rs 2,360 crores from the Home Ministry for purchase of critical equipment, they were actually provided a pittance for the same.
While CRPF had sought Rs 873 crore for purchase of critical equipment, it was provided a mere Rs 20 crore. Likewise, BSF, which had sought Rs 694 crore for purchase of critical weapons, it too got a mere Rs 20 crore. The same is the case with Assam Rifles which had sought Rs 309 crore but got a mere Rs 28 crore. Further, NSG, which plays such a critical role in safeguarding the nation from major terror attacks, had asked for Rs 118 crore for purchase of modern weapons but was allocated a mere Rs 86 lakhs.
Against this backdrop, the Congress pledge to equip India's Central Police Forces with modern weapons, actually is hard to believe. The manifesto also remains silent on what Congress plans to do with the issue of a large number of Central Police Personnel quitting jobs because of pathetic work condition, indifference of senior officers, lack of timely leave and lack of even basic amenities. More than 60,000 Central Police personnel have taken voluntary retirement from Central Police Forces in the last six years.
The Congress manifesto also remains silent on the issue of cross border illegal infiltrations from Bangladesh and how it plans to contain it.
What BJP Manifesto States....
The BJP manifesto on the other hand makes promises of reviving ‘the anti-terror mechanism that has been dismantled by the Congress, strengthen the role of NIA and put a system in place for swift and fair trial of terror related cases.' This is a clear indication that BJP, if voted to power would bring into place a POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Acts) kind of strong anti-terror law and change the architecture for speedy trial in terror related cases.
The BJP manifesto also pledges to insulate the intelligence agencies from political interference. This is perhaps one of the most important things that is needed to be done, given the rampant and most blatant misuse of intelligence agencies, especially the Central Intelligence Bureau, has happened in India.
The Ishrat Jahan case has been striking example where CBI and IB came at loggerheads with each other and eventually IB Director Asif Ibrahim even went to extent of stating that charge sheeting IB officers in the Ishrat Jahan case would have severe impact on the morale of IB officers and can severely impact counter-terror operations.
However, how BJP plans to insulate IB from political interference and witch-hunting, would be interesting to see. The best way forward would be to make it a constitutional body though a statutory act of parliament much on the lines of CAG and Election Commission. It would be even better if NIA, NSG, IB and a few other agencies are integrated into one cohesive counter-terror, intelligence gathering and national security agency.
A special mention as also been mentioned in the manifesto for protecting migrant workers as well as for introduction of NCC at universities and strengthen Civil Defence for community defence, civil defence and disaster management. For a country which is so much prone to natural disasters and terrorism, development of community defence and disaster management skills is a much needed programme.
On the issue of Border Management, the BJP manifesto pledges to introduce punitive measures to check illegal migrations, which today has become one of the most critical internal security issues. It also pledges to deal with cross border terrorism with a firm hand.
However, on the issue of addressing grievances of the Central Police Forces, nothing specific has been mentioned in the BJP manifesto as well. Ideally, if BJP comes to power, it has to solve the systemic issues of the Central Police Forces on a war footing without which the war against Maoists and cross border terrorism as well as illegal infiltrations, cannot be fought.