Orissa begins recruitment of 2,000 tribal to fight Maoists

November 19th, 2008 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Nov 19 (IANS) The Orissa government plans to recruit 2,000 tribals as special police officers (SPOs) to fight Maoist rebels, a step slammed by human rights activists in the state as an attempt to replicate the controversial ‘Salwa Judum’ measure of neighbouring Chhattisgarh. A senior Orissa state police official Wednesday said they have begun a process to recruit about 2,000 tribals in five Maoist-affected districts of the state.

“We have already placed advertisements in newspapers seeking applications from those interested”, the official told IANS, adding that the process will be completed by the end of next month.

“At least five hundreds tribal would be recruited in our district and we are on the job”, S. Praveen Kumar, Superintendent of Police in Kandhamal district said, adding that the local administration has already asked candidates to apply.

The recruitment process is also underway in the districts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati and Raygada, a senior police official of the region said.

However, human rights activists have reacted strongly to the move and said the state government is trying to copy the controversial Salwa Judum civil militia of Chhattisgarh.

“A step like this is an admission that the situation is very bad in the tribal belt. Instead of finding out the root cause of the problems, the government is trying to pit tribals against their own people,” human rights activist and lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo said.

According to the officials, the selected candidates, who must have passed class eight at least, would be appointed as special police officers after undergoing a rigorous three month training schedule. The government will also provide them weapons training, similar to what regular police undergo.

Appointed on a contractual basis for the first three years, the SPOs would get a consolidated honorarium of 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.

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, official sources said.

Another group, the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (Jana Shakti), another left wing 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 said.

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