ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Economic Determinants of the Maoist Conflict in India

India’s Maoist movement is often thought to be rooted in economic deprivation. A review of the emerging literature and descriptive evidence from a district-level data set on Maoist conflict indicates that the relationship between underdevelopment andMaoist activity cannot be explained in simple economic terms. At the state level, Maoistconflict-affected states have similar growth trends and do not score lower on development measures. In a cross section of districts, the most robust predictor of Maoist activity is forest cover, which could reflect the importance of strategic terrain factors as well as the relevance of forest rights and forest produce.

It was more than a decade ago that India’s Naxalite movement was famously characterised by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as “the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country.”1 The conflict continues, having claimed more than 7,000 lives between 2005 and 2017 (SATP 2017). Both the Maoist rebels and the security forces seem engaged in a cycle of violence, with ordinary citizens caught in the middle, suffering lossesof lives, livelihoods, and living in anatmosphere of fear and intimidation.

The continued violence highlights the challenge of balancing development and security-driven responses to the centre of the public debate. It is widely accepted that the Maoist-affected regions are trapped within a vicious circle in which economic hardship and conflict reinforce each other (Planning Commission 2008). Development programmes undertaken by the centre and the affected states hold the promise of breaking this circle. But a number of key questions can be raised: are economic factors among the root causes of the Naxalite movement? Does Naxalite activity weigh on the economic performance of the affected states? Which development outcomes and economic sectors should be targeted? What is the economic logic of violence that development efforts need to take into account?

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Updated On : 4th Oct, 2017

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