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I welcome you to this very important conference on Internal Security. This forum has proved its utility over several years as a platform to exchange ideas and to build consensus on the possible ways and means to strengthen our internal security apparatus.
Since we last met in February 2011, the internal security situation has by and large been satisfactory. I commend the efforts of the States and the Centre for their joint efforts to maintain peace, amity and harmony throughout this diverse land of ours.
But I am sure all of us would agree that much more is required of us. Serious internal security challenges remain. Threats from terrorism, left wing extremism, religious fundamentalism, and ethnic violence persist in our country. These challenges demand constant vigilance on our part. They need to be tackled firmly but with sensitivity. The forces behind them must not only be contained but should also be effectively rolled back.
This is undoubtedly a complex and onerous task. It is an endeavour that requires the united effort of us all both or two centres and in the states. Internal security is a matter in which the States and the Centre must work together, hand in hand, and in harmony.
Take for instance Left Wing Extremism. The year 2011 was a better year than 2010 in terms of the number of deaths caused by Left Wing Extremist groups. But we still have a long way to go, both in terms of including people in the affected areas in our growing economy and society, and in terms of providing them with adequate account of security. The so called “protracted people’s war” waged by Left Wing Extremists against the state and society continues to target civilians and security forces, and economic infrastructure such as railways, mobile communications and power networks. In the recent past, naxalites have also resorted to abducting foreign nationals.
I am glad that you are devoting a separate session this evening to Left Wing Extremism. Our holistic approach to the problem remains valid and necessary, paying simultaneous attention to security, development, good governance and perception management. In the last two years, the Integrated Action Plan has brought development to villages in the most backward and violence affected districts in our country. We have also extended the Plan from the original 60 districts to 78 districts. Given the inter-state ramifications of Left Wing Extremism, the Action Plan has been deliberated in detail with the seven affected states.
At the same time, we should work together to find better and more effective ways and means of implementing our holistic approach.
Like other internal security matters, we need joint and coordinated efforts to deal with the challenge of terrorism, whatever be its origin, whether internal or external, and whatever its motivation. This is a struggle in which we cannot relax. When we see turbulence in the region and growing factors of instability around us, we must strengthen our defences against terrorism. Today, terrorist groups are nimble, more lethal than ever before and increasingly networked across frontiers.
Accurate and timely intelligence is a prime necessity if we are to defeat terrorism, preventing it and countering it effectively. We have made some progress in this regard, strengthening our intelligence gathering apparatus and establishing NATGRID. The operationalising of four NSG hubs and NIA branch offices and MAC-SMAC connectivity are other instances. We will discuss the National Counter Terrorism Centre on May 5 in a separate meeting, as some chief Ministers suggested.
There is no question that the burden of the fight against terrorism falls largely on the States’ machinery. The Centre is ready to work with the states to put in place strong and effective institutional mechanisms to tackle this problem.
In Jammu and Kashmir there has been a perceptible improvement in the security and law and order situation. As a result, the state witnessed the highest inflow of tourists and pilgrims during 2011. The Panchayat elections were successful and were more proof of the people’s desire to be able to lead normal lives free from the shadow of violence and terrorism.
The situation in some of our North-Eastern states has, however, remained complex. There was some improvement in terms of incidents of violence, but there is no question that much remains to be done to restore calm and eliminate extortion, kidnapping and other crimes by militant or extremist groups on the pretext of ethnic identity. The pilferage of development funds by militant groups is hurting our efforts to improve the lives of the people of the region. Inter-factional clashes, such as those in Tirap and Changlang, are another source of insecurity.
The answers to these problems lie in strengthening the law and order capabilities of the states concerned and in reasserting and rebuilding normal democratic political and developmental processes. More proactive state police forces reducing reliance on central armed police forces would be a useful step forward. The Centre will continue to work with the states of the region to make this possible. I would hope that the implementation of infrastructure projects in the North-East will create conditions for the return of normalcy.
I am very happy that political processes of negotiation and dialogue are underway with several insurgent and ethnic separatist groups in the North-East that are committed to finding amicable solutions to their problems. These ialogues, which are being undertaken by the Ministry of Home Affairs in close consultation with the states concerned, are making steady headway.
The Centre will continue its support to capacity building and police modernisation efforts by the States. State governments are the primary responders in most internal security situations. We have extended the police modernisation scheme and we are continuing the Coastal Security Scheme and the Border Area Development Programme. I would urge the States and Ministry of Home Affairs to carry forward police reform and modernisation to their logical conclusion.
Before I close there is one other issue that I would like to put forward for consideration. No system or structure can be better than the people who man it. The internal security structures of India are no exception. It is therefore important that we find ways and means of improving not just the number but also the quality of our police personnel. I hope that your meeting will suggest new and innovative ways to address this issue and to make rapid progress in improving the conditions under which our personnel work. If we are able to do so, we would be repaying in some measure the dedicated and loyal service of our police and defence personnel which has helped us to make our country safer.
With these words I wish you well in your deliberations. I hope that this conference will make constructive and practical suggestions that will enable us to further improve internal security in India, strengthening the rule of law, and enabling every Indian citizen to realise his or her full potential in an environment of peace and security. That must be our common goal, and I look forward to working with you towards that end.