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Policemen fight Maoists with lathis
Raipur/New Delhi, Apr 11 (PTI/IANS):
Published on 11 Apr. 2010 11:52 PM IST
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In the vast hostile jungle terrain of Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Bastar region, much in the news because of the recent massacre of 76 paramilitary troopers, hundreds of policemen armed only with ‘lathis’ or crude bamboo staves take on Maoists in the red terror zone.
Armed to the teeth, Maoists on the the hand carry guns, grenades, mortars and rocket launchers.
“It’s a war you can describe as ‘sticks versus mortars’. In several jungle areas where police stations are vulnerable to Maoist attacks, the cops have access to either obsolete weapons or lathis. The basic thought is not to arm policemen as Maoists can take off with their weapons,” a police source said.
A senior police officer with over 15 years of posting in Maoist areas told IANS: “The central government as well as the Chhattisgarh government have the will to crush the insurgents, but lack vision and strategy. This has left hundreds of policemen in the forested interiors at the mercy of Maoists.”
“The nation should know a bitter fact that several policemen of constable rank and mostly armed with lathis salute local Maoist leaders daily in the thickly forested and largely inaccessible areas to ensure they are alive.
“But, in Raipur and New Delhi, politicians and ministers claim that the days of Maoists are numbered,” the officer remarked.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a recently released report on the government of Chhattisgarh for the year ended March 31, 2009, said: “The police department had a total of 49,143 units of weapons, of which 11,232 units (23 percent) were obsolete such as .303 rifles, .410 muskets, .38 revolvers, .303 light machine guns (LMG) and grenade firing (GF) rifles. But they were still in use.” The report noted that Chhattisgarh is facing a shortage of 20 percent of the required weapons.
“The police headquarters had assessed a total requirement of 47,265 units (of weapons) under various categories, against which the availability was 37,911 units only. Therefore, there was an overall shortage of 9,354 units (20 percent of the requirement) for the whole state,” the CAG said. Nearly 40,000 security personnel, including the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), are fighting Maoists in the Bastar region that is made up of five districts -- Bijapur, Dantewada, Kanker, Bastar and Narayanpur.
Another major concern is lack of coordination among state police personnel and paramilitary men plus their reluctance to obey guerrilla warfare guidelines.
Naxals blow up school in Bihar
Maoists blew up a state-run school at Yadupur village in Bihar’s Aurangabad district on Saturday, police sources said. Over 50 rebels surrounded the school and triggered a dynamite blast to blow up the building, they said adding no casualty was reported. A combing operation has been launched to apprehend the Maoists.
The Maoist empire: Rs 1,500cr and counting
A yearly turnover in excess of Rs 1,500 crore. Targets raised by 15% every year, investments here, cutbacks there, acquisitions made, salaries paid, perks for the star performers...That’s the mid-sized corporation called the Maoist empire.
Every paisa of it comes from extortion, drugs, looting, ransom and robbery. In states where the rebels’ writ runs, each sack of potatoes, every truck consignment, every government salary has a price. In Jharkhand, for instance, the going rate is Rs 5 per sack of vegetables and Rs 1 crore per acre of poppy farm.
The annual turnover of the Maoists matches or even exceeds that of companies such as Exide, CESC or Hindustan Motors. According to intelligence agencies, Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh contribute around 40% of the total revenue. Most of the Maoist takings – Rs 300 crore to Rs 400 crore – comes from mineral-rich Jharkhand. Ten per cent comes from backward Orissa. Bengal, where the Maoists are in consolidation-and-expansion mode, isn’t particularly cash-rich but is allotted the bulk of the investment portfolio. The rebels extort crores even from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where they don’t have much of a hold.
Maoist resources is a tricky subject. Most government and corporate employees are enthusiastic about discussing this but only off the record. “It is risky to talk about this in public,” remarked a senior police officer in Bhubaneswar.
A few months ago, the Maoists went on the rampage in Malkangiri district, setting on fire a guest house owned by a multi-national company, as well as a petrol pump, a control room and other property worth lakhs.
It raised urgent questions. Why attack a private firm? A police officer offers some pointers: “It is an open secret that business houses make regular payments to Maoists in order to survive. They incur the wrath of extremists only when they stop payments or refuse to increase the quota.”

The extortion network touches every strata of society. Some time ago, Rayagada police arrested engineering college staff en route to meet the Maoists and hand over Rs 13 lakh. The police officer elaborates: “Each organization or individual has a separate quota. So, too, contractors. Those who provide logistical support to the extremists or are listed as their men are charged 6% of the total project cost. Others have to pay 15%. Even bus and truck associations have to pay.”

In Jharkhand, the levy ranges from 5% to 10% on civil contractors and Rs 50 per truck. Bus and truck operators have to pay Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 per month.

In Bengal, the insurgents collect Rs 8 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per month from stone-crushing units, sponge iron factories, contractors, businessmen and even school teachers in Jangalmahal. The Maoists are believed to be extorting money from traders in urban areas outside Jangalmahal. “It is possible that they have forced some big industrialists to pay a regular levy,” says another police officer.

A civil contractor in Singhbhum says that “every contractor has to cough up money when the Maoists demand it. We can only negotiate and hope to bring it down to the base level of 5%.” He adds, “A businessman who tried to be smart was abducted and released only when his family paid a hefty ransom.”

A transporter operating in the coal mines in Jharkhand’s Piparwar area, says, “If we avoid paying the levy, our trucks are set on fire. More than 20 trucks carrying coal and bauxite have been set ablaze this year.”
Jharkhand home secretary J B Tubid admits the Maoists extort huge sums by imposing large levies. “We are doing our best to plug all sources of levy to them.”

Fiscal discipline

Ganja cultivation is also a major source of revenue for them. Poppy cultivation flourishes on thousands of acres in the Balimela reservoir area in Orissa’s Malkangiri and some 200 acres in Jharkhand. “The Maoists are opposed to liquor, but encourage ganja cultivation. It is a double benefit for them as they get commissions from its sale and they win over the locals by keeping the police off their illegal crop,” says a police officer.

The rebels have a layered set-up, starting at the central committee and reaching right down to the local guerrilla squad. They don’t operate like street goons. Designated people at every level religiously maintain accounts, totting up income and expenditure. Earnings are mostly used to buy weapons, dry rations and medicines, such as anti-malarial drugs, vitamins and antibiotics. Half the money allocated to or generated in Bengal is spent on firearms, say sources.
The cadres are even paid and salaries can range from Rs 250 to Rs 3,000. Those who operate from home are not paid. The policy is well-defined on who will collect and how much. Grassroots cadres are allowed to spend small amounts; huge collections are handed over to the designated central committee functionary. For instance, Rs 99 lakh looted from a Malkangiri bank in April 2009 was sent to the high command.

Perks and freebies

But not everyone in the Maoist ranks believes in the frugal life. A young rebel arrested from a remote village in Ranchi’s Bundu block sported brand new Reebok shoes, an expensive shirt and had a high-end mobile phone.

Ranchi SSP Praveen Singh says that Maoist regional commander Kundan Pahan sent the central committee just Rs 1 crore of the Rs 4 crore looted from a bank in May 2008. “He kept the rest to buy arms and ammunition, and indulge in luxuries such as expensive shoes, motorcycles and (living it up) in hotels,” he said. A police officer in Bundu says that every rebel group of 30 members has at least 20 high-end motorcycles.

In Bengal, where the insurgents are spreading their tentacles, there is little scope for luxury, even though the leadership is pumping crores into the network in the state. In 2009, after the arrest of Maoist politburo leader Amitava Bagchi, police seized a sheet listing expenditure of Rs 20 crore for the Bengal unit. In 2007, when police nabbed Somen, secretary of the Bengal chapter, he revealed that expenditure was less than Rs 1 crore in the state. The sudden increase in Bengal’s budget indicates the rebels’ determination to expand in the state. More than 65% of the money allotted to Bengal comes from other state units, mostly Jharkhand and Bihar.

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