Dawood Ibrahim is no longer India’s most wanted man. That title now belongs to top Maoist leader Ganapathy, whose Red army is spread across 10 states and is a virtual government unto itself in several large swathes.
The difference between them: The CPI (Maoist) general secretary carries a Rs 2.52-crore bounty on his head that is 10 times and above the Rs 15 lakh offered for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts accused.
The distinction doesn’t end with the two. Maoists, considered India’s biggest internal security threat, are miles ahead of gangsters like Dawood and even wanted terrorists when it comes to bounty.
CPI (Maoist) politburo members Namabala Kesava Rao and Kishan Da alias Prashant Bose are worth Rs 1.57 crore and Rs 1.47 crore, respectively, while their colleague Deo Kumar Singh alias Arvindji, who holds sway in the Jharkhand-Bhihar region, is worth Rs 1.32 crore.On the other hand, the Indian Mujahideen’s fugitive founder Riyaz Bhatkal — whose group carries out deadly attacks with alarming alacrity across the country — carries a prize of Rs 25 lakh.
Ramchandra Kalasangra and Sandeep Dange, most wanted accused in ‘Hindu terror cases’, carry rewards of Rs 20 lakh each offered by the CBI and National Investigation Agency.
“Not everyone was enthusiastic when the idea to increase the bounty for top Maoists was mooted by a CRPF officer at a meeting of states affected by Left-wing extremism, after the NDA government took charge.
But home secretary Anil Goswami backed it and asked the states to work on it since the police are a state subject,” said a home ministry official.
Acting on this, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh were the first to announce Rs 1-crore bounties on Ganapathy (the cumulative now stands at Rs 2.52 crore).
They also enhanced the offer for politburo members from Rs 7 -10 lakh to Rs 50-60 lakh while information leading to the arrest of a central committee member would now fetch Rs 40-50 Lakh.
The decision to hike bounties was in part inspired by the Andhra Pradesh experience.
“Because Andhra had the maximum reward money, many Maoists there surrendered as they got to keep the money to start life afresh. They also turned valuable sources of information on Maoist movements,” said a home ministry official.
He added that if the new reward policy worked, the government would end up spending far less on resources deployed to catch the rebels.
States continually review Maoist bounties. “They are announced according to ranks and stature and are subject to change following reviews of activities and threat perception,” Odisha director general of police Sanjiv Marik told HT.
For instance, Sabyasachi Panda, now arrested, was worth Rs 20 lakh when he headed the CPI (Maoist) Odisha organising committee that looted police armouries in Nayagarh and abducted two Italian tourists. But the offer was reduced to Rs 5 lakh following his dismissal by the rebel group.
In contrast, the prize on Dawood has stayed almost constant.
A former CBI official told HT they received several inputs about his movements outside Pakistan but lack of international support killed any attempts at action. “Even now, we keep getting information but almost everytime it turns out be wrong. But we check everything,” the official said.
There is no ‘process’ for making ‘wanted’ lists in India. There is no centralised data on rewards announced by state police on top criminals and terror suspects.
With the formation in 2009 of the NIA, a federal agency to probe terror cases, the situation has improved. The NIA has announced substantially higher rewards (R10-15 lakh) and the information is now available on its website.
(Inputs from Priya Ranjan Sahu in Bhubaneswar, Ejaz Kaiser in Raipur, B Vijay Murthy in Ranchi, Prasad Nichenametla in Hyderabad, Avinash Kumar in Patna.)