With armed Naxal groups increasingly on the offensive, the union government on Wednesday asked Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal - the three states worst affected by Maoist violence - to set up a unified command to ensure better coordination of anti-Naxal operations.
Union home minister P Chidambaram told journalists after a meeting of the chief ministers of the Maoist-affected states in New Delhi, which was also attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior union cabinet ministers, that the proposed unified command would be headed by the chief secretaries of the four states, and would have a retired major general as a member.
The four states were also asked to appoint an Inspector-General-rank police officer to take care of anti-Naxal operations; and appoint an inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as IG (operations) for that state to work in close coordination with the IG (anti-naxal operations) of the state.
Assam and Jammu and Kashmir, also hit by insurgency, have unified commands in place, headed by the respective chief ministers.
The centre also offered the four states more helicopters, logistics support and intelligence sharing to fight the Maoist menace. It sanctioned about 16,000 additional special police officers, taking the total number of such posts to about 30,000. It also decided to fund the establishment or strengthening of 400 police stations in the affected districts at Rs2 crore a police station on an 80:20 funding basis over two years.
Chidambaram said some states wanted the centre to allow them to use air power against the Naxalites, but they were told that at present aerial support would be limited to provision of more helicopters for the purposes of logistics, troop movement, supplies and evacuation. The government's Naxal policy did not permit the use of air strikes against Naxalites as of now, he said.