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Home minister Rajnath Singh at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Home minister Rajnath Singh at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Urban naxals won’t be tolerated, says Rajnath Singh

Home minister reiterates government's resolve to keep its pledges to improve the condition of farmers

New Delhi: Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Friday warned that any attempt by left-wing extremists to move their operations to the cities will be nipped in the bud and also reiterated the government’s resolve to keep its pledges to improve the condition of farmers.

Singh, a former agriculture minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee dispensation, is seen as a troubleshooter for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to defuse farmer agitations that have been breaking out across the country.

In the latest such agitation, thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh were stopped earlier this week at the gates of Delhi by the police who fired tear gas shells and water cannons, drawing widespread criticism from opposition political parties and farmer bodies.

“I have worked with farmers. I am also from a small farmer family," Singh said at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi. “So they trusted me and the government and dropped the protest...I want to assure everyone that the promises we made will be fulfilled."

The government is trying to tackle farm distress arising out of plunging crop prices. To stem the fall in farmers’ incomes, the government has approved higher fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane farmers for the 2018-19 season. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to double farmers’ incomes by 2022.

Singh added that the NDA government is trying to reduce input costs and has substantially increased the minimum support price of rabi and kharif crops.

The home minister said his government has made a provision of 14 trillion to strengthen the rural economy and that if the economic situation of farmers improves, India’s economy will get a new momentum.

In the run-up to the 2019 general elections, the government has been trying to accelerate the rate of economic growth amid criticism over a lack jobs. India’s economy accelerated to a nine-quarter high at 8.2% in the first quarter of 2018-19. However, it has been experiencing turbulence because of the rupee emerging as Asia’s worst performing currency of the year, a widening current account deficit, and volatile oil prices.

In response to a query on his government’s contentious crackdown on so called “urban Naxals", Singh said Maoism is referred to as Naxalism in common parlance and added that it has created a huge problem for the country.

Singh also referred to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing it as the country’s gravest internal threat and said that the present government has had success in reducing the numbers of left-wing extremism (LWE-affected districts from 126 to around 52-53. The Naxal insurgency has been particularly strong in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

“For the first time we have managed to do that (reduce LWE-affected districts). There are some people who come to urban areas to promote Maoism. They either indulge in violence themselves or support violence. I want to tell you that one is free to defend one’s ideology but no one will be permitted to resort to violence."," Singh said.

His remarks follow last month’s synchronized raids by the Pune Police in five states at the homes of prominent civil and human rights activists and intellectuals, whom the Maharashtra Police and intelligence officials have called “urban Naxals". Five activists were arrested for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

Referring to the proposed urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir starting on 8 October, Singh expressed confidence that 90% of the people in the state would participate in the local body polls. He added that terror incidents in Jammu and Kashmir have come down from 6,000 in 1995 to around 370 in 2017.

Singh, however, admitted that the coming together of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to form a coalition government was an unsuccessful experiment.

Governor’s rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the BJP withdrew support to the PDP-led coalition government, blaming chief minister Mehbooba Mufti for the deteriorating law and order.

“I admit that we must improve the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The problem is that our neighbour is not coming around," Singh said.

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