Huge response to Orissa recruitment drive to combat Maoists

December 25th, 2008 - 10:29 am ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Dec 25 (IANS) Officials in Orissa’s troubled Kandhamal district wanted to recruit 500 residents to combat Maoists. They received over 3,000 applications.
In five Orissa districts - Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Rayagada and Kandhamal - the state government is recruiting 2,000 special police officers (SPOs) to fight Maoist rebels.

“We have (received) tremendous response in Kandhamal district,” district superintendent of police S. Praveen Kumar told IANS by phone.

Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23.

At least 38 people were killed in the state and thousands of people forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs. About 8,000 people are still living in government-run relief camps in the district. Maoists had claimed responsibility for the killing.

“The recruitment process is under way. The number of applications we have received were over 3,000 against 500 posts (in the district),” Kumar said.

“We want to fight Maoists. We are not afraid of them,” said a resident who has been selected in neighbouring district Rayagada.

“The response we got in other districts was also good,” said deputy inspector general of police Sanjeeb Panda.

“In Rayagada and Koraput, there were 1,800 and 1,200 applications against 400 posts each and we have completed the selection process,” he said.

In Malkangiri, one of the worst Maoist-hit district, some 800 applications were received; 236 SPOs were selected.

Panda said if the authorities had lowered the eligibility criterion from those who had passed Class 8 to those who had passed Class 5, they would have got many more applications.

“We have requested the government to relax this norm,” he added.

The officials said the selected SPOs would now be trained for three months before they were appointed.

Appointed on a contractual basis for the first three years, the SPOs would be paid Rs.4,000 per month in the first two years and Rs.4,500 in the third year.

Increasing Maoist-related violence over the past few years has become a major cause of concern for the government with officials expressing helplessness in tackling the situation.

The Communist Party of India-Maoist has influence in at least eight of the state’s 30 districts. They are Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj, an official said.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (Jana Shakti), another leftwing extremist outfit, has made its presence felt in the mineral rich tri-junction area of the districts of Keonjhar, Jajpur and Dhenkanal.

Fifteen out of 30 districts of the state have been affected by Maoist violence to some degree, the government has said.

But the recruitment has been slammed by human rights activists in the state as an attempt to replicate the controversial Salwa Judum movement of neighbouring Chhattisgarh.

Maoist rebels have appealed to the people not to join the special police force. They have appealed to the residents to join the Maoist movement instead.

“The spontaneous response by tribals despite the Maoist threat has established that tribals do not support the rebels,” said another police officer.

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