This collector says there is hope, and he knows

FP

He has been there, gone through it and, he says, emerged stronger from the experience. As Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon spends his third night in Naxal captivity, R Vineel Krishna, the only other IAS officer to be kidnapped by Maoists in the last two decades, has words of hope and reassurance.

"They are unlikely to harm him or ill-treat him. In fact, they treat you well. But obviously it is not a comforting situation at all. Not for you, not for your family or anyone else," Krishna said from first hand experience today.

The officer, who was then collector of Malkangiri, was kidnapped in February 2011 and spent nine days in Maoist captivity. He hoped that Menon would be released soon.

Krishna and Menon were born within three months of each other in 1980. Krishna, the younger of the two, is from Andhra Pradesh and made it to the IAS in 2005 and was assigned the Orissa cadre. Menon, from Tamil Nadu, joined a year later, in the Chhattisgarh cadre. Both officers got their first assignment as collector in Naxal-hit districts — Krishna in Malkangiri, Menon in Sukma. They know each other professionally.

"He is a brave officer, very efficient, one of the best that Chhattisgarh has," Krishna said of Menon.

"That is why he was given charge of Sukma, which is the worst affected district in the entire country."

Krishna, who is now private secretary to Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, was present in Sukma when this small town in the southern tip of Chhattisgarh became headquarters of the new district by the same name on January 16 this year.

Menon was taken hostage while on a field visit; something Krishna himself undertook regularly. "We know we are pushing the boundaries but that is essential. We must take that risk. By trying to take the government to the people, we become a threat to the Maoists. Maybe a bigger threat even than the security forces. This is because we are taking away their cause from them. The biggest handle that the Maoists have with the villagers is the grievance that the government is absent from their areas," Krishna said.

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