August 27, 2009:
The bloodiest conflict for India these days is the seemingly endless battle with radical communist ("Maoist") rebels in the eastern part of the country. So far this year, this violence has killed nearly 600 people. Only 27 percent of the dead have been Maoists. The largest number (42 percent) of dead have been police and military, with the remaining 31 percent of the dead civilians.
India has been fighting Maoist (communist) rebels for decades. The violence is mostly in rural areas of eastern and southern India, where poverty is high and literacy is low. Nationally, the illiteracy rate is over 30 percent, and in the districts where the Maoists operate, it is much higher. That makes it difficult to recruit local police, and in many of the areas with the most Maoist violence, the police are under strength. The police have to be literate, and too many potential recruits are not. Many who could qualify, have better paying, and less dangerous, alternatives to choose from.
Some states, like Andhra Pradesh, have managed to keep their police forces up to strength, and, as a result, are doing better against the Maoists. To help the other states, that are not doing as well, the national government is recruiting 35,000 additional police into a special security force (the "Police Reserve") to be used against the Maoists. This is in addition to 26,000 Police Reserve cops already raised. This is against shortages of about 100,000 police in the affected states. The Maoists are, after all, a local problem and are taking advantage of local grievances (feudal practices by landowners and industrialists, and corrupt local government officials), which the government finds more difficult to deal with, than simply hiring more cops.
The government has also moved some troops in to help, but believes the problems are mainly economic and political, and, thus, local. The national government talks about helping alleviate the poverty, but little has been done over the last decade. Economic programs that have been tried, have been crippled by corruption. It's going to take some strong political leadership, as well as lots of police, to deal with the Maoists.