On March 30, a truck was thrown up in the air by a powerful landmine explosion in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. Seven jawans of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force were travelling in the truck. All seven died.
Two days later, four CRPF jawans were seriously injured in a series of high-intensity blasts in Jharkhand.
Far away from the Maoist conflict zone, the wife of a CRPF jawan in Kerala raised an outcry in late March after she received the body of her husband wrapped in a plastic sheet. He had reportedly fallen and died in a water tank while serving in an interior post in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh.
The bodies of paramilitary troopers landing in villages and towns across the country signal the human cost of the government’s war against Maoist rebels in central and eastern India.
But this isn’t the only price India is paying for its internal conflicts.
The wages of war
The intensification of the government's war, whether with Maoists rebels in central India or with insurgent groups in Kashmir and the North East, can be seen in the steady rise in the number of paramilitary troopers.
The Ministry of Home Affairs recruits personnel for the central paramilitary forces. This includes the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, among others. Raised to protect India’s borders, BSF and ITBP are now increasingly deployed in the countryside to quell internal fires. ITBP, for instance, is posted along the border of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh where Maoist rebels operate.
Between 2006 and 2014, while every major department of the government saw a decline in staff numbers, the home ministry's staff strength went up by 32%, from 7.44 lakh to 9.80 lakh personnel.
The largest employer in the government of India is the Ministry of Railways. Between 2006 and 2014, the railways hired 3.3 lakh people, while the home ministry hired 3.6 lakh, the highest recruitment by any government department.
The rise in paramilitary recruitment has been so steep that excluding the railways and post, the home ministry now accounts for 55% of all central government employees.
This year, the central government is expected to raise the salaries of its employees in line with the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission. The paramilitary forces will account for a large chunk of the government's wage bill.
The rise in the government's wage bill could threaten its fiscal deficit target, and reduce funds available for spending on public infrastructure needed to boost the economy and create jobs.
This means Indian citizens will pay a heavy price for New Delhi's political failure in tackling unrest in the countryside.
As it happens, India's poorest, most marginalised people are waging war against the State. The Maoist rebel army in the forests of Chhattisgarh is drawn from impoverished adivasi communities. Instead of addressing their grievances through political dialogue, the government is recruiting poor young men from other regions to fight them.
This is showing up in very high levels of militarisation in the region of Bastar. In July 2015, while responding to an opposition query, Chhattisgarh Home Minister Ramsevak Paikara said 58,772 paramilitary troopers were deployed in the state's Maoist-conflict affected areas. The population of the six districts of Bastar which are affected by the conflict is 2,341,887, according to the 2011 census.
This yields a ratio of 1:40, or one paramilitary trooper for 40 civilians – possibly among the highest in the world.