Monty’s Indian Outlook – Issue 73

The Jharkhand Government’s idea to give free mobile phones to 200 village leaders to send tip-offs about Maoist terrorists has backfired somewhat.

The security forces have correctly pointed out that not only is it hard to distinguish between village mavens and Maoists, it also makes those leaders become immediate targets for the rebels, who steal the mobiles and then give out false information to the Police.

The mind boggles at the Government’s utter ineptitude at suggesting such an idea. Apparently, they promised to pay the mobile bills of all participating headmen, but also warned them about ‘misuse’ of the mobiles.

Talk about robbing Deepika to pay Umbika. That’s like a UK rozzer giving his informer money for information but telling him to spend it wisely.

That reminds me of a story. I once knew hippies in New Zealand’s North Island who grew marijuana on a farm that the Police could only access by helicopter. Irritated by their crops being destroyed they finally realised the cops could only get fuel from ONE petrol station in the area. Yep, they bought the station. Problem over.

So it is with the Maoists who blow up mobile masts to prevent any such communication and who command growing support from local people who are under presidential rule, which ensures Delhi’s direct control over its administration. More than 80% of the population are farmers and the state is beyond poor.

A campaign by the Hindustan Times has shown that children suffering from malnutrition have red-hot irons plunged into their stomachs to cure them. ‘The more they scream, the more germs are killed,’ said one enlightened local.

So a mobile phone give-away is hardly going to help these benighted people; it is investment that is needed to teach locals that such tribal traditions are harmful. Or even the odd doctor. Jharkhand has 2,200 doctors for 30 million people, that’s one doctor for 10,000 people, one of the worst ratios in the world.

And what makes all this so insane is that Jharkhand has more than 40% of India’s minerals including iron ore, coal, copper, bauxite and even uranium. So the stakes are high. India’s government would love to knock out a few forests to get at that lot.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the Maoist insurgency is the ‘single biggest threat’ to India’s security, so why doesn’t he do something about it?

Giving away mobile phones isn’t the answer, but unless he thinks fast it’s going to be too late. Jharkhand will fall to the Maoists and India will start falling apart.

Monty (623 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.


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About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.