India’s rapid economic growth over the last decade has been coupled with a Maoist insurgency that competes for the allegiances of rural populations with the state. In response to the threat, the Government of India has securitized development, using public works programs in an attempt to sway locals away from Maoist allegiance.
However, these areas are also home to massive iron, coal, and steel factories that drive India’s growth. This study uniquely aimed to address the lack of local-level analysis and the lack of a robust dataset by merging previous qualitative fieldwork with disparate conflict data sources at the district level to explore different potential explanatory variables for the Maoist insurgency, including the relationship between development works, violence, and natural resource extraction.
Using cross-sectional data on 151 districts from six Maoist affected states in India, we find that the presence of significant mining activity conditioned by higher Scheduled Castes and Tribes population share that is the best predictor of violence. On the other hand, we find that state capacity and effective implementation of development programs like NREGA may indeed be loosely related to the suppression of violent activities in districts affected by the Maoist conflict. Our preliminary findings lend support to the argument that change and transformation create winners and losers, where given a particular set of circumstances, the losers may have an incentive to organize costly conflict if pernicious processes of transformation are not addressed with better policy.