Patna: Bihar is gifting goats to its poorest people in a bid to win the hearts and minds of villagers and stamp out support for Maoists. Maoist violence has killed thousands over the past four decades in India.
The state government hopes that giving five goats to each poor family will provide enough meat, milk and a sustainable income to combat the cash and food that the rebels offer unemployed villagers in exchange for their support.
"The goats will multiply each year and their care would, in turn, provide them sustenance. By that way, we aim to strike at the root of insurgency and wean away the rebels' support base," Prem Singh Meena, a senior district official said.
Officials say goats worth over Rs 80 lakh ($177,000) have already been distributed to poor families living in the remote and inaccessible forested hill regions that the Maoists have traditionally used as a safe harbour.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist issue as one of the gravest threats to India's internal security.
The insurgency in Bihar has grown in recent years, and the number of Maoist-hit districts has more than doubled to 33 from 15 over the past five years, according to the latest official report. Bihar has a total of 38 districts.
The Maoist revolt began in May 1967 as a peasant-based uprising in West Bengal's Naxalbari town, but has now spread to large swathes of countryside in more than 20 out of 28 states, especially around mineral-rich eastern and central India.