Maoist insurgent attacks across a wide section of India dubbed the "Red Corridor" have severely disrupted industrial development in the area, affecting the country's economic growth as a whole.
In 2008, for example, insurgents attacked an Essar Steel plant. Another steel company, Jindar, has put off plans for a factory in Chhattisgarh, fearing it could become a target. The Maoists have also been known to blow up tanker trucks and destroy utility installations, causing power blackouts.
The cost to people in the affected regions, in the form of lost job opportunities, is high. At the same time, Indian industries are hampered from developing mineral-rich areas. Now the business sector is seeking to join the fight against insurgent violence by sponsoring programmes aimed at boosting quality of life in some of most impoverished rural communities.
Doing so, advocates hope, will help dampen the appeal of extremist ideology and pave the way for development.
"The challenge is to ensure that legislation like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right to Information Act, the Minerals Act, and the Food Security Act are implemented," Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said. "This alone can bring about the required change in the rebels," he told Khabar South Asia.
Among the initiatives garnering business support is the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF), which aims to assist tribal peoples. To gain funding, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has enlisted the support of leading corporate houses, such as Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Infosys and the Jindal Group.
A fourth corporation, Tata, already maintains its own fund aimed at spurring development and discouraging extremism, but has also agreed to support the new initiative. In addition, organisations such as the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India have appealed to their members to support the cause.
The goal is to secure around Rs 1,000 crore ($200 million). "With the inflow of funds, the BRLF will be able to sustain itself and change the lives of marginalised tribes, who form the main rank and file of the Maoists," Ramesh said.
"These tribes, who inhabit about 170 districts of the country, have no access to proper food, water, or other basic necessities and, hence, they are vulnerable to Maoist ideals," he said.
As part of the plan, tribal communities will now have a better representation, Ramesh said. Lack of local participation in decision-making has been cited by critics as a major factor hampering earlier efforts, such as the $700m Integrated Action Plan.
Jawharlal Sharma, a prominent social worker and People's Union for Civil Liberties official, has worked with poor tribes for more than 50 years. The 79-year-old activist says he hopes the BRLF will be able to achieve what the earlier initiatives failed to do.
"The active participation of the corporate houses, who will engage themselves in the project for their own benefit too, will help the foundation to function in a professional manner to achieve its goals," Sharma said.
Pradeep Jain, Minister of State for Rural Development, is optimistic about the road ahead.
"Things are looking bright and we're hopeful of implementing the project soon," he told Khabar. "The National Rural Livelihoods Mission has already begun work in this direction and has chalked out a plan to uplift the lot of rural poor families across the country."
According to a 2011 report from the Ministry of Home Affairs, 3,240 people, including security forces and civilians, were killed in Maoist violence last year. The casualty figures include security forces and civilians. West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand are identified as the worst-affected areas.