Maoists have turned to collecting levy on cannabis cultivation to ramp up their revenues, the government told Parliament on Wednesday even as it acknowledged the rebels were responsible for violence in 13 states last year. Maoist violence was earlier reported from 11 states in 2005 and 2006.
In reply to a string of questions in Parliament, the Union home ministry came up with figures of naxal violence suggesting that naxals had been able to make inroads into states. The ministry, however, made it clear that there were no inputs to suggest that naxalites were, in some cases, acting in collusion with the local police. There was some information to indicate that they were making money out of cannabis cultivation and trade though the government did not accuse them of being involved in the trade.
“Some available inputs suggest that cannabis cultivation and its trade have become a source of finance for the CPI (Maoists) in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa,” minister of state for home affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal said. “In its strongholds, the CPI (Maoists) collects ‘levy’ from licensee cannabis cultivators who cultivate excess land over and above the permitted limits, protection money from narcotics traders who indulge in trafficking and safe passage money from narcotics smugglers,” Jaiswal said.
To another question on the trend of surrenders by extremists and naxalites, Jaiswal tabled figures that indicated the number of naxalites who had surrendered had declined last year. For instance, Chhattisgarh, where 901 naxals were said to have surrendered in 2006, saw only 167 surrenders last year. This year, there has been no surrender in the state. According to the figures, 67 naxals had surrendered in Maharashtra in 2006 and 35 last year.
This year, the state has, however, reported a figure of 57 in January and February 2008.
Andhra Pradesh has reported surrender by 34 people in the first two months this year and 162 people last year. In 2005, the state had reported surrender by 282 people.