The Maoists have always sought to destabilise India and their continue to reign terror in parts of Chhattisgarh. However, their influence is on the wane thanks to the zero-tolerance to terrorism attitude of the Modi government, the Maoists have been forced to flee to tri-junction area of Karnataka-Tamil Nadu-Kerala which not only have dense forests but the lack of clear demarcation of borders between the states aids the Maoists.
The return of the Communist government in Kerala sparked concerns that the Pinarayi Vijayan led government would go soft on the Maoists. In a shocking revelation, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has found that the state police diverted funds meant for strengthening operations in Maoist-infested areas to procure vehicles for VIP security.
The CAG presenting its report in the Kerala Assembly took serious note of firearms and live cartridges missing from the department and bid to cover up such incidents. It also noted a violation of the stores purchase manual and guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission in the procurement of equipment.
The report further stated that the police department does not have the full complement of vehicles as required under the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) and the guidelines of modernisation of police force (MOPF) scheme in the procurement of vehicles for VIP security were also violated.
The report hit out at the state’s police absolute lethargy as instead of addressing the shortfall in the number of vehicles at the police stations, it decided to procure inadmissible vehicles under the scheme. What’s more concerning is the fact that the state police thought it was prudent to procure vehicles for VIP security which was not admissible under the MOPF scheme instead of procuring bullet-resistant vehicles for deployment in Maoist-affected areas.
The height of VIP culture in Kerala came to the fore in the report as it stated that 15 per cent of the 269 Light Motor Vehicles procured by the department were luxury cars that were deployed for use of high-level officers and non-operational units.
In a sensational revelation, the report accused the state police chief of diverting Rs 2.81 crore which was meant for construction of upper subordinate staff quarters — for construction of villas for top officials. The report found that the Thiruvananthapuram Special Armed Police Battalion is facing a shortage of 25 INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges.
With these shocking revelations, it comes as no wonder that the anti-Maoist operations in the state have been severely hampered. The state police are living in old age as it is still using analogue communication equipment in the operations. According to the report, the anti-Maoist operations in the forests of Palakkad, Malappuram, Idukki and Wayanad suffered due to the dependence of police on analogue communication equipment as the state government failed to pay for spectrum charges on time and get a licence from the Centre to procure digital mobile radios.
In September 2019, the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), the nodal body at the Centre for sharing intelligence inputs, had raised the issue of Naxals migrating from the Dandakaranya zone, mainly concentrated in south Bastar, towards what is referred to the KKT (Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu) axis. The agency specifically highlighted Kerala as the state where the increase in Maoist migration and arms training has been most active. A special division of the Naxals Western Ghats Special Zonal Committee (WGSZC) is reported to be actively working to recruit and train cadres in the area. One of the main reason for Maoists migrating to Kerala is the fact that the state possesses relatively milder fire and manpower in comparison to Maoists, allowing them over time to take greater risks and run an extortion racket from the local tourism industry.
Intel agencies have also raised issues about Maoism spreading the fastest in places which have least government penetration and consequently, maximum dissatisfaction against the state. It is no wonder that all the districts fall in Kerala – Wayanad, Mallapuram, Kannur, Kozhikode and Palakkad districts of Kerala.
An intel report submitted to Kerala said, “Due to frequent operations by (forces of) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Naxals were forced to flee towards the jungle areas of Kerala. But for Kerala, combing operation is new to them and requires assistance. Kerala has vast jungle areas that are unexplored.”
At such a precarious time, the state machinery should be on high alert but it seems that the state government and police have different priorities. The state is glaringly ill-prepared to counter any Maoist adventurism.