PC, Naveen engage in verbal duels

Bhubaneswar: The one-day visit of the union home minister P Chidambaram to review the naxalite problem in the state has unfortunately turned out be a war of words between him and the chief minister Naveen Pattanaik.

Expressing his unhappiness over the state government`s performance in tackling Maoist menace in the state, Chidambaram told the media that the problem of left-wing extremism was really grave and the Naveen government was not moving in the right direction to tackle the crisis. Chidambaram complained that the state Maoist attacks have been increasing despite the Centre providing enough central para-military security personnel to the state.
Elaborating on central assistance to the state, the vocal union minister Chidambaram said that while only four months ago there were only four battalions of central para-military forces, the number at present has increased to 13 battalions excluding one Cobra battalion. The force strength has gone up to over ten thousand. Yet there was no let up in the reduction of Maoist related incidents, he added. He said that 48 policemen including civilians have been killed by the ultras till October which might increase by the end of the year.

Despite the presence of such large contingents and over 60 police stations having been declared Maoist-prone, there was no substantial action on the part of the state government. Chidambaram advised the government to follow the examples of other states which have been able to contain the problem.

Then it was the turn of the chief minister who likely felt that the union home minister crossed the Laxman rekha and he must provide the right rebuttal. Rubbishing Chidambaram`s accusations, Naveen later told the media that in fact the Maoist incidents have decreased in the state in comparison to the previous years. The soft spoken chief minister did not stop there. Naveen said that his government was prepared always to learn from other states but others states should also learn from the notable actions taken by the state.