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Brutal Force or Development – Way ahead against the Naxalite Insurgency

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By Vasudha Kaul

The Naxalite insurgency movement, today is present in nine states, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. In 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the Naxalites the “single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country”In June 2011, he said, “Development is the master remedy to win over the insurgents”.

This article determines if, as Manmohan Singh argued, development will be an effective instrument in preventing the Maoist insurgency in India or brute force will suppress them enough to kill the movement.

Picture from naxalrevolution.blogspot.com
Picture from naxalrevolution.blogspot.com

India after independence had two divergent development paths to choose from. One was the Gandhian ideology of sustenance of villages by providing them with political decentralization. The other was the rapid industrialization and growth proposed by Nehru. India, as we know, followed the Nehruvian ideology.

The size of the Indian economy has tripled today but it has been majorly a jobless growth with half the country being under the poverty line. This inequality has led to severe grievances among the victims of the exclusive economic development process.

These grievances coupled with the entrenched historic caste-based discrimination in India, have led to an on-going caste-based struggle and hence the Naxalite insurgency.

This situation is exacerbated by the government’s failure to ameliorate the issue through the development process. The Naxalites organize the Dalits against the upper caste around the issues of land, wages, caste discrimination and sexual abuse of Dalit women.

Although the origin of the Naxalite insurgency can be found in grievance, its sustenance, on the other hand, can be attributed to Indian government’s approach towards the insurgents.

The government, instead of looking out for the root cause, has taken up a form of an oppressor.

The civil and police administration engage in aggressive operations, arrests and fake encounters of tribal civilians not involved with the insurgency. This creates an anti-establishment environment and sympathy towards the insurgents that leads to a renewed form of grievance. This grievance leads to further dissemination of the Naxal ideology.

Development a tool?

The “only development” solution fails because one, even in the best scenario of low level conflict, the welfare policy implementation is highly inhibited and two, because it assumes lack of economic development as the only criterion for the continuation of the insurgency. This is not to say that development is not good tool to deal with insurgency but it is a necessary condition and not a sufficient one.

Image from naxalitereview.wordpress.com
Image from naxalitereview.wordpress.com

There have been certain occasions where Naxalites have been appropriating funds meant for development purposes and cases where armed threat is used against public officers for extraction of bribes, but these factors alone would not be able to keep the momentum alive and garner support from the disenfranchised masses. Police brutality is one of the leading reasons of this issue.

An only military solution is not feasible as well. Currently there are 71 battalions of para-military forces, i.e. 71,000 personnel, have been deployed in the Naxal affected areas. Although the forces play a vital role in aiding the state led developmental activities, they cannot be the driving force for curbing the insurgency. This is proved by the fact that increased police brutality results in increased recruitment for Naxals. On the one hand, in Orissa, the focus is on the pro-development model rather than the police brutality, which has devalued the insurgency in the eyes of the masses. On the other hand, in Jharkhand the continued police brutality continues and so does the insurgency and the continued support from the masses.

Hence developmentalist strategy alone or a strategy based on the police action will not yield long-term results. The two factors must go hand-in-hand for long-term benefits.

The validity of the two-pronged approach is demonstrated in Madhya Pradesh. With the increase of security in the state and introduction of rural livelihood program – NREGA, there was considerable decrease in the insurgent activities.

It is important for the government to recognize the two types of obstacles in any implementation. One is the Maoist insurgent leaders who want to replace the rule of the state with an alternate system of governance via violence and the other are the masses, mostly Tribal and Dalit population, who desire economic development. Both these aspects have to be dealt simultaneously.

The government while dealing with the Naxalite insurgency has to keep in mind that it is not the Naxals who have created a fertile environment for insurgency. Rather, it is the existing failure of governments to protect the rights of the poor.

The disenfranchised hence look at insurgency-based organizations for their social welfare and justice. The government also has to keep in mind that there are two sets of social structures that it has to address. One that of insurgents and the other of the low class-caste masses that vies for development. To deal with both these levels of structure, the state must launch a multi-directional security and developmentalist efforts. It is the only way in which people’s faith in the administration and governance can be restored.

Vasudha Kaul is a graduate student at The University of Oxford reading in Modern India Studies.

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Google Proposes Its First Urban Development Project

The current agreement leaves ownership of data issues for later shows that it wasn't properly drafted and means patents derived from the data will default to Google.

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Heated streets will melt ice and snow on contact. Sensors will monitor traffic and protect pedestrians. Driverless shuttles will carry people to their doors.

A unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet is proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto’s waterfront into what may be the most wired community in history — to “fundamentally refine what urban life can be.”

Sidewalk Labs has partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre (4.9-hectare) site — a first step toward what it hopes will eventually be a 800-acre (325-hectare) development.

High-level interest is clear: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alphabet’s then-Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt appeared together to announce the plan in October.

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A Google logo is seen at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, VOA

But some Canadians are rethinking the privacy implications of giving one of the most data-hungry companies on the planet the means to wire up everything from street lights to pavement. And some want the public to get a cut of the revenue from products developed using Canada’s largest city as an urban laboratory.

“The Waterfront Toronto executives and board are too dumb to realize they are getting played,” said former BlackBerry chief executive Jim Balsillie, a smartphone pioneer considered a national hero.

Complaints about the proposed development prompted Waterfront Toronto to re-do the agreement to ensure a greater role for the official agency, which represents city, provincial and federal governments.

So far the project is still in the embryonic stage. After consultations, the developers plan to present a formal master plan early next year.

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Trump Also Expands Google Criticism to Include Facebook, Twitter. VOA

Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, envisions features like pavement that lights up to warn pedestrians of approaching streetcars. Flexible heated enclosures — described as “raincoats” for buildings — will be deployed based on weather data during Toronto’s bitter winters. Robotic waste-sorting systems will detect when a garbage bin is full and remove it before raccoons descend.

“Those are great uses of data that can improve the quality of life of people,” he said. “That’s what we want to do.”

Sidewalk Labs promotional materials promise “a place that’s enhanced by digital technology and data, without giving up the privacy and security that everyone deserves.”

Doctoroff said the company isn’t looking to monetize people’s personal information in the way that Google does now with search information. He said the plan is to invent so-far-undefined products and services that Sidewalk Labs can market elsewhere.

“People automatically assume because of our relationship to Alphabet and Google that they will be treated one way or another. We have never said anything” about the data issue, he said. “To be honest people should give us some time. Be patient.”

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Google has collaborated with Getty images. Wikimedia Commons

But that wasn’t good enough for Julie Di Lorenzo, a prominent Toronto developer who resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board over the project. Di Lorenzo said data and what Google wants to do with it should be front and center in the discussions. She also believes the government agency has given the Google affiliate too much power over how the project develops.

“How can [Waterfront Toronto], a corporation established by three levels of democratically elected government, have shared values with a limited, for-profit company whose premise is embedded data collection?” Di Lorenzo asked.

Di Lorenzo asks who will own the autonomous vehicles. “Is the municipality maintaining the fleet or forcing you to share your vehicle?” She also asks if people who don’t want their data collected will be allowed to live there.

The concerns have intensified following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and Google. A recent Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on iPhones and Android devices store location-tracking data even if you use privacy settings that are supposed to turn them off.

Google
The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

“It gives all of us pause,” Waterfront board chair Helen Burstyn acknowledged.

Bianca Wylie, an advocate of open government, said it remains deeply troubling that Sidewalk Labs still hasn’t said who will own data produced by the project or how it will be monetized. Google is here to make money, she said, and Canadians should benefit from any data or products developed from it.

“We are not here to be someone’s research and development lab,” she said, “to be a loss leader for products they want to sell globally.”

Ottawa patent lawyer Natalie Raffoul said the fact that the current agreement leaves ownership of data issues for later shows that it wasn’t properly drafted and means patents derived from the data will default to Google.

“We just can’t be too trusting of corporations,” she said.

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An empty chair reserved for Google’s parent Alphabet, which refused to send its top executive, is seen as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg accompanied by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on ‘Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms’ on Capitol Hill. VOA

But Burstyn, the Waterfront Toronto chair, said the upcoming master plan will address data concerns. The agency wants to make Toronto a global hub of a rising new industry, she said.

“Everybody gets worried about the digital and technology aspects that might run amok,” she said. “I don’t worry about that as much as I see the opportunities for developing a really interesting, innovative community.”

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Adam Vaughan, the federal lawmaker whose district includes the development, said debate about big data and urban infrastructure is coming to cities across the world and he would rather have Toronto at the forefront of discussion.

“Google is ahead of governments globally and locally. That’s a cause for concern but it’s also an opportunity,” Vaughan said. (VOA)