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After Gadchiroli success, govt moves to choke Maoist funding, develop rebel-hit areas

Maoists and its splinter groups run their finances through an extortion network, levying what they call “protection tax” to contractors of government projects, kendu leave traders, timber merchants, miners and stone quarry operators.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2018 23:38 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Maoist funding,Gadchiroli,National Investigation Agency
Security personnel show the guns recovered from the Maoists killed in an encounter at Broriya forest area in Bhamragad taluka of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on Sunday night. (PTI Photo)

A multi-pronged approach dictates the government’s strategy against Maoist rebels, which includes coordinated counter-insurgency measures, backed by choking of rebel funding sources and development of rural areas that have been their support bases traditionally, said officials familiar with the plan.

These measures apparently complement security operations, which became evident when police commandos killed 40 Maoists in the jungles of Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district this April in what is said to be the biggest successful drive against the insurgents in the state.

“Multi-disciplinary groups comprising officers from central agencies as well as from the state police have been formed at the Centre and state levels to choke their finances and to ensure seizure and confiscation of properties of the Maoist leadership,” said a government official, requesting not be identified.

“Besides, a process has been initiated to create a separate vertical in the NIA (National Investigation Agency) to investigate important cases related to left-wing extremism,” the official added.

The Communist Party of India (Maoist) and its splinter groups run their finances through an extensive extortion network, levying what they call “protection tax” to contractors of government projects, kendu leave traders, timber merchants, miners and stone quarry operators.

A Jharkhand police special branch report said in 2016 that the CPI (Maoist) and fringe groups collected about Rs 200 crore annually from their extortion sources.

“In order to choke the Maoist finances, the government needs to ensure that the contractors are not exploited by the rebels,” said Arun Chaudhary, former chief of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), a paramilitary force operating in Maoist-hit areas.

The government has already pressed the NIA, the country’s anti-terrorism agency, to find out the funding sources of Maoists active Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Telangana.

Besides, the enforcement directorate (ED) has started the process to attach properties allegedly owned by Maoist leaders Sandeep Yadav and Pradyuman Sharma of the Bihar-Jharkhand belt, an official said.

Another approach to break the support base of Maoists is “financial inclusion” of people from districts affected by insurgency.

As part of the drive the government has set up 428 bank branches and 1,045 ATM kiosks in select districts. Besides, 15 industrial training institutes (ITIs) and 43 skill development centers have been established.

More such instates are in the pipeline.

“In 32 of 35 most-affected districts, 565 post offices have been set up too,” the official said.

The government will also spend Rs 970 crore under a special scheme in 35 Maoist-affected districts to provide solar power for homes and irrigation.

“After erecting 2,329 mobile phone towers, the government is now installing 4,072 more to improve connectivity in Maoist-hit areas,” the official said.

According to former SSB chief Chaudhary, the security forces will have to watch out for retaliatory strikes after successful operations against Maoists in the past one month.

“The morale of Maoists must have weakened. They may retaliate to lift the morale of their cadre. The security forces will have to ensure the Maoists remained cornered in their core zone bordering Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Odisha,” he said.

First Published: Apr 28, 2018 23:36 IST