Lalgar in West Midnapur, Bengal, on a warpath over Jindal’s Salboni SEZ and police repression

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Nov 13: Background of the movement – Partho Sarathi Ray. Picture courtesy Sanbad Pratidin
Nov 14: Movement spreads to Midnapur, Jhargram cut off – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 15: Some reports from mainstream media
Nov 15: Spins of the corporate media, and the true story of Chotopeliya village – Partho Sarathi Ray
Nov 16: Peoples Committee Against Police Oppression formed, uprising spreads near Garbeta – Partha Sarathi Ray

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Nov 13, 2008: Background of the movement

By Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati.

The events that have been happening during the last one week in the adivasi (tribal) belt of West Midnapur district in West Bengal are so unprecedented that the authorities do not know how to respond to them, and the media doesn’t understand their significance.

Even the political parties and civil society are at a loss trying to come to terms with what is happening. What had started off as protests against police brutalities have turned into a full scale uprising against state oppression and dispossession. Nothing like this has been witnessed in West Bengal in living memory.

The entire chain of events started after the 2nd November land mine explosion targeting the convoy of West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and union steel and mines minister Ram Vilas Paswan as they were returning from the inauguration of the Jindal Steel Works special economic zone (SEZ) in Salboni in West Midnapore district.

Around 5000 acres of land have been acquired for this project, of which 4500 acres have been handed over by the government and 500 acres have been purchased directly by Jindal from landowners. Reportedly, a large portion of this land was vested with the government for distribution amongst landless tribals as part of the land reforms program and also included tracts of forests. Moreover, although the land was originally acquired for a “usual” steel plant, last September Jindal got SEZ status for the project, with active help from the state government, which dispensed with the requirement for following most regulations for building and running the plant, including crucial requirements such as doing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The government was, and is, not bothered about the setting up of an SEZ having a polluting steel plant in the middle of a forested area, dispossessing tribals from their land and endangering their means of survival. Understandably, there were major grievances amongst the tribals against this, although the mainstream media had constantly portrayed a very rosy picture of the entire project.

The land mine explosion was blamed as usual on the Maoist insurgents allegedly active for a long time in Salboni and the adjacent Lalgarh area. According to press reports, the Maoist movement is active in twelve police station areas in the three adjoining districts of West Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia. Three junior-level policemen were suspended and show-cause notices were served on a few senior officers for negligence of duty.

Usually, the police harass and arrest tribal villagers after every Maoist attack; this time in order to hide their own failure in providing security to its political masters, and to save their skin from the wrath of the government, the police went on a rampage in the tribal villages. Having no clue about the real perpetrators of the land mine explosion, they started beating up and arresting people indiscriminately. Among the first to be arrested were three teenage students, Aben Murmu, Gautam Patra and Buddhadeb Patra, who were returning from a village festival during the night. They were charged with sundry charges including waging war against the state, conspiracy, attempt to murder, using dangerous weapons and obstructing justice. Then during the day on 4th November, an armed police party arrested Dipak Pratihar of Kantapahari village while he was buying medicine from a chemist’s shop in Lalgarh for his pregnant wife Lakshmi. In the process the police brutally beat up Lakshmi and threw her to the ground. She had to be subsequently hospitalized. Ten people were arrested during the police raids and beaten up, including a retired teacher Khsamananda Mahato and a civil contractor Shamsher Alam from Chotopeliya village, who was visiting the area for a day for some construction work. Although these two people were subsequently released, as the police could not formulate any charges against them, the rest were kept in police custody.

The police and CRPF, led by the officer in charge of Lalgarh police station, Sandeep Sinha Roy and the superintendent of police of West Midnapore district, Rajesh Singh, unleashed a reign of terror in 35 villages encompassing the entire tribal belt of Lalgarh. In raids throughout the night of November 6th, women were brutally kicked and beaten up with lathis and butts of guns. Among the injured, Chitamani Murmu, one of whose eyes was hit by a gun butt, and Panamani Hansda, who was kicked on her chest and suffered multiple fractures, had to hospitalized. Chitamani’s lost her eye because of the injury. Eight other women were badly wounded. These police brutalities soon reached a point where the adivasis had no other option but to rise up in revolt.

The adivasis of India are one of the most oppressed and downtrodden groups of people in the country. Police oppression is nothing new to the Santhal adivasis of the Bankura-Purulia-Midnapore area. But the unprecedented atrocities inflicted by the police in the past week, especially the wanton attack on women, wore out their patience. On the night of 6th November they assembled near the Lalgarh police station and surrounded it, effectively cutting it off, and the policemen inside, who had been rampaging in villages the previous night but had now locked themselves inside the police station, did not dare to venture out. Electricity to the police station was disconnected and all the lights were broken.

What began as rumblings of protest took the shape of a spontaneous mass uprising the next day. On 7th November, when the ruling CPI(Marxist) was “observing” the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution throughout West Bengal, ten thousand Santhal men and women, armed with traditional weapons, came out and obstructed the roads leading to Lalgarh, disconnecting it from Midnapur and Bankura. Roads were dug up and tree trunks were placed on the road to obstruct the entry of police vehicles, in the same way as it had been done in Nandigram.

The police jeep and the CPI(M) motorcycle have long been symbols of oppression and terror for villagers throughout West Bengal, so this digging up of roads, besides actually inhibiting the movements of these agents of oppression, have become a symbol of defiance and liberation. Towards the night of 7th November, the people also disconnected telephone and electricity lines, virtually converting a vast area into a liberated zone. The apex social organization of the Santhals, the Bharat Jakat Majhi Madwa Juan Gaonta took up the leadership of the struggle, although the leader of the organization, the “Disham Majhi” Nityananda Hembram has himself admitted that the organization has no control over the movement; rather the movement is controlling the organization.

Smaller organizations of the tribals, such as the Kherwal Jumit Gaonta, that have been playing active roles in the struggle have openly called for armed resistance, stating that there is no other way for the survival of the adivasis.

The demands of the adivasis were so “earthy” and original that the administration did not know how to respond. The demands were that the superintendent of police Rajesh Singh should publicly apologize by holding his ears and doing sit-ups, a traditional way of punishing errant youngsters, the guilty policemen should crawl on the streets of the villages where they had tortured people, rubbing their noses on the ground, again another traditional way of humiliating wrongdoers, and Rs 200,000 compensation for the injured and assaulted. The demands were marked by the total reliance of the adivasis on their traditional systems of dispensing justice, and not looking up to the formal judicial process which they have realized is by nature weighted against the poor and marginalized. Although these demands have since been modified to an unconditional oral apology from the police superintendent and punishment for the policemen involved in the raids, the administration has arrogantly refused to accept these demands, although they have said that the demand of compensation can be considered.

However, the adivasis have been in no mood to accept this “offer” and the upsurge has spread over an even wider area encompassing Dahijuri, Binpur, Jhargram and Bandowan.

The administration has virtually disappeared from these areas. On 10th November, adivasis led by the tribal social organizations set up new roadblocks in the Dahijuri area. When the police lathicharged the assembled people and arrested some of the leaders of the Gaontas, the situation turned explosive. The tribals surrounded the police officials present and a crowd of few thousand adivasis, armed with bows and arrows, axes and daggers, and led by women wielding broomsticks, chased the police for four kilometers along the road leading to Jhargram. The police were forced to retreat from the area and release all the leaders of the social organizations they had arrested.

The movement has been continually intensifying during the past week and spreading over a larger area.

The slogans emanating from the movement have also been changing and now the adivasis are demanding that the dispossession of tribals from their land, forests and water in the name of development and industrialization has to stop. The struggle against state oppression is turning into a bigger struggle against dispossession and marginalization.

The state has been helpless in front of this upsurge and has been trying to “negotiate” with the tribals. But what has been frustrating their efforts is the essentially democratic nature of this upsurge. Although the administration has been holding multiple all-party meetings with the dominant political parties, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress, Congress and the Jharkhand Party, the leaders of these parties have openly admitted to their inability to exert any influence on the adivasis.

The adivasis are not letting any political leaders access to the movement, including tribal leaders like Chunibala Hansda, the Jharkhand Party (Naren faction) MLA from Binpur. They are demanding that any negotiations be carried out in the open rather than behind closed doors. Even traditional leaders like the “Disham Majhi” Nityananda Hembram and other “majhis” are having to talk directly with the adivasis before talking to the administration. Villagers of the ten villages in Lalgarh have formed ten village committees with one coordinating committee to negotiate with the administration. This democratic nature of the upsurge have frustrated all attempts by the administration to “control” the movement till now, and have forced the political parties like the local Trinamool Congress to come out in support, although the state leadership of the party is strangely silent about it.

The state and the CPI(M) have not dared to respond with overt violence yet, although there are news that a motorbike-borne militia is being assembled nearby by Sushanta Ghosh, the notorious CPI(M) minister and Dipak Sarkar, the CPI(M) district secretary. The state has been forced to accede to the bail of the three teenage students arrested by the police and have also send Sandeep Sinha Roy, the notorious O.C of Lalgarh police station, on extended leave. There are also reports that, being unable to quell the resistance, the state government has requested the central government to send paramilitary forces to help in their efforts.

What we are witnessing in the tribal belt of West Bengal is of historical moment. A long oppressed people have risen up and are daring to confront their oppressors and question the logic of “development” that destroys their lives and livelihoods. It is interesting to observe that the nature of confrontation with the state, exceptional in scale and intensity, seems to be inspired by the popular resistance at Nandigram – thereby, providing some sort of continuity to the possibilty of an emerging people’s struggles against state repression.

The West Bengal government has been alleging that the movement is being organized and led by the Maoists, and that the Lalgarh area has become a “liberated zone” for them. These are common ploys used by the CPI(M), the government and its sympathisers to brand and delegitimize popular movements. The mainstream media, a faithful ally of the state in such matters, has been repeating the same allegations and lamenting that such acts, which are being dubbed anarchic in nature, has resulted in the breakdown of civil authority. In this manner, attempts are being made to dissociate the urban civil society and intelligentsia from the movement, who have not yet been able to formulate a response to the upsurge. Moreover, using such rhetoric, the state is perhaps also trying to legitimize whatever steps it wishes to adopt in overcoming the resistance.

It is quite expected that radical political forces would have been active among the adivasis as the latter have been the most downtrodden people in India and it is their land and resources which is being handed over for corporate plunder. However the presence and participation of the Maoists or similar forces in no way delegitimizes this seemingly spontaneous, and democratic, expression of people’s anger. This is amply expressed by what Arati Murmu, a woman who had been assaulted by the police, and who had gone to block the Lalgarh police station had to say:

“Whenever there is a Maoist attack the police raid our villages and torture our women and children. For how long will we suffer this oppression by the police? All of us are Maoists, let the police arrest us. Today we have come out.”

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Nov 14: Movement spreads to Midnapur, Jhargram cut off

By Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati

Yesterday the movement spread to Jhargram town in one direction and crossed over from the Jhargram subdivision, where the movement has been continuing for the past week, to the Midnapore sub division. Jhargram town has been disconnected from the rest of the state. On the other hand, roads have been dug up 4 km away from Midnapore town. Yesterday, leaders of the Bharat Majhi Madwa, Prabir Murmu and Munshiram Murmu, had been talking to the administration and at the end of the day they said that the movement would be withdrawn from Jhargram. But as soon as they went back to the protesters, the latter declined to withdraw the movement. Munshiram Murmu was reportedly roughed up by the protesters. As a result, they made a volte face and declared that the movement will continue.

The Bharat Majhi Madwa has again stated that they have no control over the movement. Yesterday, to complement the traditional show of force by the santhal villagers, the Santhal Students’ Association took out a motorbike rally in Jhargram town. Also, the latest news say that the centre has declined to send the CRPF because of the impending assembly election in 4 states.

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Nov 15, 2008: Some reports from mainstream media

Report from The Telegraph

A new team of tribals from Lalgarh told district authorities today that the government would have to pay a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to each villager injured in police raids and searches should be stopped from 5pm to 6am.

The delegation of the Pulishi Santrash Birodhi Jonosadharoner Committee (panel to protest police atrocities) was led by its secretary, Sidhu Soren. The committee was formed last night after villagers accused the Bharat Jakat Majhi Marwa, a group of elders negotiating with the officials till now, of “betraying the tribal cause”.

The panel put forward a list of 11 demands. The elders had wanted compensation earlier, but the amount was specified today. They had asked night raids to be stopped, too, but had not spoken of the time.

The police suspect the new committee has the backing of Maoists. Additional district magistrate (general) R.A. Israel, however, refused comment on the matter.

“Today, we did not come to work out a solution. We submitted our demands. They told us they would not be able to fulfil some of them. The SP will have to go to Dalilpur and announce the decision in front of villagers,” Soren said.

“We will discuss administration’s views with the villagers tomorrow and then decide our next course of action.”

Israel, who spoke to the team of 10 tribals, ruled out the possibility of the SP going to Dalilpur, which falls in the Lalgarh police station area, because of security reasons.

The committee repeated two earlier demands that the officials have rejected. One, that the district police chief should squat and apologise holding his ears. Second, that policemen should crawl from Dalilpur to Chhotopelia.

Israel added that “releasing those who were arrested with arms in connection with the (November 2) blast is not possible”. “We have asked them (the committee) to file a written complaint against those policemen whom they are accusing (of atrocities). A probe will be conducted.

“We have assured them (the committee) that the policemen in the camps set up in schools and hospitals will be removed once peace is restored. The administration will bear the cost of treatment of those injured in the November 5 raids.”

Today, the roadblock in Dahijuri was lifted, but Jhargram town remained cut off from the rest of the state because the damaged roads had not been repaired.

In Calcutta, home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said night raids would stop, but did not specify the time. “We have decided there will be no night raids. But the road digging will not be tolerated indefinitely.”

Lalgarh on boil, consensus elusive

Report from The Statesman

The state government is apprehensive of a clash between the blockaders and the those adversely affected by their stir in and around Lalgarh, Mr Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti, state home secretary said at Writers’ Buildings today. Locals are frustrated as supply of food and fuel like kerosene have been affected following the blockade in the wake of the arrest of some people after the Salbani blast.

The state government is yet to chalk out a strong action to remove the blockade and is looking forward to resolve the crisis through talks with the agitators, Mr Chakrabarti said. The decision regarding the ongoing agitation would be communicated to the government after the agitators representatives hold talks with their elders, the government representatives were told after the meeting today. He also said that demands for the release of those guilty in the blast case would not be conceded. Neither would the police camps be withdrawn nor the demand of some of the senior police officials apologising in public would be considered by the state government, he added.

Also a probe will be initiated regarding police excesses during the raids following the blast, he said. If charges against them is proved, strict action will be taken. No specific allegations about huts being ransacked have been received by the district administration, he said. Mr Chakrabarti however regretted that the consensus on certain issues which had been reached through yesterday’s talks could not be implemented after trouble broke out in the ranks of the agitators.

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Nov 15: Spins of the corporate media, and the true story of Chotopeliya village

By Partho Sarathi Ray

It is interesting to see how the reporting on the movement is being done by newspapers like Telegraph and Statesman and the television channels. Everybody is out to prove that the Maoists are controlling the movement. And they are using the 11-point demand by the movement as a sure proof of Maoist control. For example, the TV channels are directly saying that the adivasis have demanded that all Maoists arrested over the last 10 years be released.

See what Shyamsundar Roy, a responsible journalist, is writing in The Statesman: “This stalemate has given rise to several questions like, who governs the area? ~ the civil administration or the indigenous people under the banner of the Sara Bharat Jakat Majhi-Madowa Juran Gaounta, an adivasi organisation, run by the Maoists behind the curtain. The charter of demands placed by the organisation leaders at least indicate so. They have demanded that all cases filed against the “innocent” natives of the area between 1998 and 2008 be withdrawn and the tortured families be duly compensated with unconditional release of the detained people, including those in 2 November blast case. These happen to be the same cases which the Maoists have been clamouring over the years.”

A copy of the actual demands, as shown on TV, tells a slightly but importantly different tale. It clearly states “1998 theke 2008 abdhi maobadi sandehe mithya mamlay jarano manushder mukti dite hobe” – “People arrested in false cases under suspicion of being Maoists, from 1998 to 2008, have to be released”. Now, it is natural for the adivasis to demand this, all adivasis arrested after every Maoist attack have been charged with waging war against the state, so they have to write “Maobadi sandehe” or “on suspicion of being Maoists”. This is being twisted as the adivasis demanding all “Maoists” should be released.

There is also a demand that the hated practice of police tahaldari (police vigils) during the night in villages should stop, but the home secretary has refused it.

In this context, it is interesting to revisit the incident at Chotopeliya village which had triggered the movement. It is interesting because it tells us a lot about the values of the santhals.

It seems that when the police was raiding Chotopeliya village, they found that this person called Shamsher Alam was staying for the night in the house of one person. He usually visited the village twice a year to recruit agricultural workers during the harvest season for his and others’ farmlands. When the police tried to arrest him for being a Maoist, the village women came out and protested saying that all of them knew him as he visited regularly and he was their guest. When the retired school teacher Kshamananda Mahato vouched for him the police also arrested him. Then they attacked the village women. The severely injured are from this village. This news spread around and triggered the revolt.

This illustrates how the traditions of protecting a guest, a non-adivasi and a Muslim, are still so important and powerful among the tribals. Both Shamsher Alam and Mahato were subsequently released after nothing could be found against them.

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Nov 16: Peoples Committee Against Police Oppression formed, uprising spreads near Garbeta

By Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati

The upsurge of adivasis is continuing unabated and is also spreading to newer areas. Although, after discussions between the Bharat Jakat Majhi Madwa Juan Gaonta and the administration, the siege of Jhargram town has been partially lifted. The blockade on the road connecting Jhargram and Dahijuri was lifted on 14th November but the Bharat Jakat Majhi Madwa could not convince the protesters to lift the blockades of the other roads connecting Jhargram. However, on 15th November efforts to lift the blockade on the other roads leading to Jhargram, mainly the Jhargram Lodhashuli state highway 9, which connects Jhargram to Bombay Road, have begun and it is being expected that the movement will lift the blockade of Jhargram town.

However, the movement has continued to spread to adjoining areas and reached Belpahari on one side and is approaching Garbeta, a stronghold of the ruling CPI(M), on the other. The grassroots adivasis organizations at the forefront of the protests, such as Jumit Gaonta, ESECA, Kurmi Chatra Sangram Committee etc. have come together to form the Peoples’ Committee Against Police Oppression (pulishi atyachar-er birudhhe janasadharan- er committee). Thus the leadership of the movement has passed on from the traditional elders of the adivasis to a younger generation. This mass organization is now leading the struggle and Santhal students belonging to this organization are moving from house to house telling people of the 11-point charter of demands that has been put forward.

These demands include the longstanding demands of the adivasis to stop night-time police raids in villages, removal of police and CRPF camps from the villages, release of all adivasis arrested since 1998 on the suspicion of being Maoists and charged with false cases of waging war against the state, punishment of the policemen guilty of the latest atrocities and Rs 200,000 compensation for the people injured in the brutal police attacks. The administration have flatly refused to consider the demands for removing police camps and for releasing the adivasis falsely implicated of being Maoists. The leaders of the peoples’ committee, Sidhu Soren and Singray Kisku, have said that the movement will continue till the demands are met.

On 15th November, a few thousand adivasi and non-adivasi people demonstrated in the Tamajuri area of Belpahari and cut off the road between Belpahari and Jhargram. This has disconnected the Jhargram subdivision from Bandowan in Purulia and Bnakura district. On the other hand, roads have been dug up and tree trunks have been piled up in Humgarh area under Garbeta police station and in Bulanpur near Goaltore. This is in the stronghold of the notorious CPI(M) minister Sushanta Ghosh, and there has been no opposition to the CPI(M) in this area for the past ten years. However, currently the CPI(M) cadres seem to have disappeared, although the district secretary of the CPI(M), Dipak Sarkar, have been holding meetings in villages in the Salboni area, exhorting CPI(M) supporters to get out into the streets.

The bandh called by SUCI in Jhargram on Saturday was successful. The Jharkhand Disham Party has called a bandh on Sunday in the three adivasi-dominated villages of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore. The CPI(M) state secretary, Biman Bose, has tried to give a new twist to the movement, claiming that its a separatist movement designed to separate the adivasi-dominated areas from West Bengal and include them in the neighbouring Jharkahnd state. This is a blatant attempt to stoke regionalism among the non-adivasi people and deligitimize the movement. Mamata Banerjee, for the first time, has expressed oral support for the movement from a stage in Singur, although her party has done nothing in its support. And five out of the seven arrested people who were still in police custody were given bail on 14th November as the police and the CID could not produce a case diary against them even ten days after their arrest. The judge has show-caused the CID officer Purnashib Mukhopadhyay. The polce are at a loss how to build false cases against these people whom they had arrested after rampaging through the adivasi villages.

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Lalgar in West Midnapur, Bengal, on a warpathA The Statesman report, Nov 10 2008

The indigenous people of West Midnapore appear to have adopted protests more familiar with those taken in Nandigram where, in the backdrop of police excesses, the locals dug up roads to prevent the law enforcers from making inroads into their villages.

For the fifth successive day since Maoists set off a landmine close to the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s cavalcade, the indigenous people of Lalgar, in Jhargram sub-division, continued to put up obstacles in their bid to prevent the police from raiding villages from where secondary school students were arrested for their alleged involvement in the blast. The people of Lalgar and adjoining parts of Jhargram subdivision are on a warpath protesting against the torture of adivasi women and arrest of seven “innocent” community men in connection with the 2 November blast.

Roads remained dug up and tree trunks were piled up by agitating people, effectively cutting Lalgar off from the district headquarter, Bankura and other parts of the state. The police, for some inexplicable reason, is yet to take any steps to restore the roads to their original condition.

Even as Lalgar residents snapped power lines in the block headquarter, causing a blackout in the entire area, the district administration has done precious little to assuage the feelings of a section of the indigenous people aggrieved by the police high-handedness.

There is fear that the local administration has lost its grip on the situation. Consequently, the agitation has now shown signs of spreading to neighbouring Belpahari, Binpur, Jamboni and Goaltore blocks. The situation is likely to worsen if the people carry out the threat to block State Highway 9 at Dohijuri near Jhargram tomorrow. Over the past two days, hundreds of adivasis, armed with the traditional bows and arrows and machetes demonstrated outside Lalgar police station for hours together, demanding punishment of the police officers who, they believe, were responsible for the excesses.

They also wanted the inspector-in-charge, Mr Sandip Sinha Roy, to be taken to task. It was only when senior police officers intervened and assured prompt action that the people dispersed. In view of the mounting rage, Mr Sinha Roy was asked to proceed on leave. But that did not assuage the sentiments of the people who continue to seethe in anger because the police had not spared even santhal women. “We would call off our agitation only when senior police officers seek apology for beating up our womenfolk and arresting innocent men and schoolchildren,” said Mr Prabir Murmu, secretary, Sara Bharat Jakat Majhi-Madowa Juan Gaounta.

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Development funds unused as Maoists strengthen hold

The Maoists in Bengal are successfully strengthening their foothold in the state as is indicated by the latest Maoist-sponsored blast in Salboni.

The government’s attempt to bring an end to Maoist activities in the state by taking up development works in the areas infested by them has failed miserably, as the district administration could not utilise the funds allotted for such work through Paschimanchal Unnayan Parshad.

According to officials of Pasminchal Unnayan department the district magistrates of five districts have failed to spend the allotted funds due to “lack of infrastructure.”

The state government had allotted Rs 30 crore in the year 2007-08 and another Rs 40 crore in 2008-09 for development work, but most funds are lying unused.

“Actually, the districts are flushed with Central funds under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the various district administrations are giving priority to utilising funds and hence the funds provided by us remain unutilised,” said Mr AB Chakraborty, secretary of the department.

For instance for the past two years, between 2006 and 2008 the total fund that has been sanctioned is around Rs 46 crore while only Rs 14 crore has been utilised so far.

Incidentally, the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee chose to set up a full-fledged department, Paschimanchal Unnayan department under a Cabinet minister, carved out a development and planning department to give special emphasis to development in Maoists infested areas. The districts included are West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Burdwan and Birbhum.

Moreover, due to lack of infrastructure, the department could bring about very little to development in the Maoist-infested area. The Paschimanchal Unnayan Parshad, earlier an only-policy making body is being overhauled to add teeth. But the development authority is yet to find a site to set up its headquarters in Bankura and the special secretary of the department , who has been appointed as the chief executive officer is yet to be allotted an office in Writers’ Buildings. He is forced to wander throughout the day or sit with his subordinates at the state secretariat.

At the same time the department has been entrusted with the “task of critical gap filling” and its role is limited to playing second fiddle to other departments like PWD, power, PHE and school education.

Meanwhile, the state government had roped in IIT, Kharagpur to prepare a comprehensive development plan for these areas but doubts have been raised whether the state government which has been unable to utilise Rs 30 crore can spend Rs 16,000 crore over 10 years for as recommended by IIT.