Home minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday condemned the corporate sector for paying "protection money" to Maoists so that they can operate in mineral-rich areas like Chhattisgarh.
"Small contractors or traders paying 'protection money' could be understandable because of the situation prevailing in the interior areas but big corporate houses paying 'protection money' is highly condemnable,” Chidambaram remarked after presiding over a marathon meet in Raipur to review anti-Maoist strategy in the state.
He made the observation when scribes sought his views on the arrest of a few people linked to Essar Steel, which allegedly paid guerrillas in Dantewada district.
Chidambaram admitted that there has been a decline in Maoist activities in Chhattisgarh, but cautioned the government against complacency, as the state still reported roughly one-fourth of the country's total Maoist incidents.
"Chhattisgarh is among the two most affected states as far as leftist extremism is concerned. There is a decline in number of incidents, number of civilian casualties, number of securities forces casualties... and overall Naxal activities have come down in the state," the minister said.
Commenting on the dip, he added: "It may be the case where the forces are either not entering forests to take on the Maoists or the rebels are avoiding confrontation with forces."
Earlier, opposition Congress handed over a memorandum to Chidambaram as soon as he landed in Raipur airport.
"Chhattisgarh's BJP government has lost control and administrative access in a large areas of the state. In its eight-year rule, the Maoists expanded their base hugely because of gross misuse of funds and resources provided by the central government to tackle Maoist militancy," the memorandum read.
Chief minister Raman Singh and top officials of the home department and police headquarters, besides officials of the paramilitary forces, including Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) chief Vijay Kumar, attended the meet at the state secretariat.
Official sources said Chidambaram discussed in detail ways to step up development works in Maoist areas, mainly in the state's southern tip of Bastar.
The minister also held deliberations on intensifying joint combing operations on the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border.