Hyderabad: Opposing mining, power and irrigation projects that cause mass displacement of tribals, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday said the battle against Maoists cannot be won without addressing issues like resettlement and rehabilitation of those affected.

"Our approach to mining is causing serious ecological and social havoc across the country. Over 20 million tribals have been displaced across the country in the last 50 years because of various projects.”

"We have been totally insensitive to the tribals' problems and unless we are serious about resettlement and rehabilitation which accompany industrialization, I am afraid we are not going to win this battle," he said while addressing a programme organised by MV Foundation (MVF) here.

Ramesh noted that the battle against Maoists was not that of guns, drones, planes and helicopters.

"This is a battle for the minds... a psychological warfare we are involved in. Unless we change the way our forest administration and tribal administration work...unless our approach to mining, which is causing such serious ecological and social havoc across the country, is changed, we are not going to win this battle."

One of the emerging features of Maoist ideology was the progressively reducing age of the recruits, he said. "This is a matter of grave concern for us that Naxal cadres comprise young boys and girls in age group of 12-15 years."

"If in the long run we are going to make a dent on the attractiveness of Maoist ideology for young boys and girls who, because of the force of economic circumstances, are forced to join the cadres, it's only through the involvement of groups like MVF (fighting against child labour)," he said.

Ramesh said his Ministry was focusing on transforming the way development programmes were implemented so that "people begin to see the difference".

Ramesh noted that Andhra Pradesh has demonstrated how to combat Maoist violence and ideology through a combination of political activity, development interventions, and effective intelligence gathering and police action.

All three have to go hand-in-hand, the Minister said.

Providing an environment in which children have meaningful opportunities for going to school and for being retained in school and also actually achieving tangible outcomes "is a huge challenge ahead of us", he observed.

Youth needed to be mobilised towards a constructive channel that took them away from the path of violence and destruction and brought them on a normal path, Ramesh, a former Environment and Forest Minister, maintained.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy said his Government has enrolled 1.30 lakh children, who were out of school, in the last one year and efforts were on to increase this number.

National Commission for Protection of Children's Rights Chairperson Shanta Sinha and several others spoke on the occasion.

(Agencies)