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Central funds diverted to arm CPM camps?

india Updated: Jan 19, 2011 00:41 IST
Debjyoti Chakraborty

As preparation for the assembly elections in May this year, the CPI(M) in West Bengal has allegedly spent hundreds of crores to set up and run 90 "harmad" camps in the three Maoist-affected western districts.

'Harmad', a corruption of 'armada' - from the Spanish armada, which attacked the British coast centuries ago - is loosely used in Bengali to describe pirates and bandits.

In recent decades, it has almost exclusively been used to describe the armed camps the CPI(M) patronises.

Hindustan Times travelled to the heart of the territory - where inmates of the camp at Netai, about 45 km from the district headquarters here, opened fire on January 7, killing seven people and injuring 29 - and found out how these camps are central to the CPI(M)'s plans of retaining control over the area.

The money, according to Trinamool Yuba Congress chief and MP Shubhendu Adhikary, is being siphoned out of different central government welfare schemes and the Rs 540 crore allocated for anti-Maoist operations in the three districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura.

An independent on-the-ground investigation by HT - talking to locals, intelligence officials, a few CPI(M) leaders and others - indicates that setting up these camps could have cost the Marxists about Rs 225 crore.

And the cost of keeping its "war machine" fighting fit could be costing the party about Rs 2.50 crore every month.

According to locals, the average strength of a typical Harmad camp, usually the local CPI(M) leader's house or the party office, is 30.

It is fairly common knowledge in the area that the Marxists paid each Rs 3 lakh per head to recruit criminals - not all of them party cadres - to man the camps.

To this recruitment cost of around Rs 90 lakh for each camp, add the black market cost of high-power rifles and side arms, which, security experts said, could be around Rs 1.5 crore for 30 inmates.

Besides, each camp has at least 15 brand new motorbikes for area domination.

Cost: about Rs 10 lakh. Thus, the cost of setting up a single camp is Rs 2.5 crore. Multiply this by 90 camps and you get the figure of Rs 225 crore.

The break-up of the monthly running expenses is even more interesting.

Maoist and Trinamool sources have come up with different sets of figures. By collating their figures and statements of villagers at Netai, HT has arrived at an independent estimate.

Taking Rs 3,000 as cost of food for 30 inmates, Rs 3,000 for alcohol and cigarettes, Rs 1,500 for sundry expenses and Rs 750 for petrol for 15 motorbikes, the daily expense at a single camp should be around Rs 9,250.

Multiplying this figure by 90 gives a total daily cost of about Rs 8.23 lakh. Thus, the monthly outgo comes to about Rs 2.50 crore.