Chattisgarh has not banned international medical and humanitarian aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) from working in the Maoist-hit Bastar region but has asked its volunteers not to venture into interior areas, a minister clarified Sunday.
"The government has not banned MSF or barred its volunteers from providing aid to people in Bastar. The administration in Bastar has issued an advisory to MSF appealing to them to avoid travelling to interiors of Bastar," Health Minister Amar Agrawal told IANS on phone Sunday.
He said the advisory was issued "just to warn MSF staff that the interiors of Bastar region are vulnerable to Maoist attacks".
MSF, which provides emergency medical assistance to people in more than 70 countries, had begun work in the tribal predominated and Maoist-infested Bastar in August last year.
The NGO, with over 60-70 people including 15 foreign doctors, is providing medical aid to tribal people in Dantewada district of Bastar. There are 50,000 tribals settled in over two-dozen government-run relief camps in Dantewada since June 2005 to provide them protection from the Maoists.
Police say they have intelligence inputs that MSF volunteers were regularly going to the interiors of Dantewada and providing medical care to Maoist cadres, including those who were injured in gun battles with police.
On Saturday, the state government issued a clarification saying that MSF was free to work in the state and the government has never thought of slapping a ban on any NGO engaged in humanitarian services.
The government's clarification comes in the backdrop of reports in a section of the media this week that the Chhattisgarh government had banned MSF from working in Bastar.
The region, spread on 40,000 sq km-area, comprises five districts - Dantewada, Kanker, Narayanpur, Bijapur and Bastar - all severely hit by Maoist violence.