Intelligence sources have revealed that Manipur’s insurgent outfits are investing heavily in traditional micro-financing schemes.
United National Liberation Front, the leading insurgent group in Manipur, has been on a loan-giving spree for the last five years. A substantial part of the banned outfit’s annual budget, prepared by professional accountants, goes towards the financing of micro-credit schemes, sources said.
Arrested UNLF chairman RK Meghen’s interrogation and documents recovered from him put the banned outfit’s budget at around Rs 58 crore.
As part of the scheme, R4,000-10,000 is loaned to unemployed local youth, who pay back R1 a day as interest. The loan is used to set up business enterprises such as shops or agricultural operations. As this provides the youth with gainful employment, their support and goodwill is utilised for protests and logistical help. The number of youth who have availed of this scheme has been pegged at about 3,000.
“With lack of governance, a certain vacuum exists which is being filled in by insurgents. For insurgents, it is a win-win situation. They invest their money and also earn goodwill. The only loser is the government space,” said Prof Amar Yumnan from Manipur University.The unique traditional banking system called ‘marup’ is the dominant money-lending system in Manipur where banking penetration is very poor.
“It is an open secret here. Insurgent outfits operate such schemes under a no-profit-no-loss system as it also helps them build a support base,” said a Manipuri local.
The micro-finance scheme was also conceived as a vital instrument for Operation Interface, devised by the outfit to involve sympathizers and intellectuals in raising the demand for a plebiscite.
A part of UNLF's budget goes to the payment of salaries. A UNLF cadre takes home a salary of about R4,000 every month. A substantial part goes into the buying of arms. Just across the border from Moreh is Tamuh, a small town in Myanmar, where arms and ammunition that are sold almost openly come quite cheap.