Ahead of the assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, security agencies are gearing up to thwart threats from the CPI(Maoist) which has strategically reduced their encounters with the police in traditional stronghold areas, so that they have time to move into newer areas.
In a recent classification of 25 most affected naxal districts done by the Union Home Ministry, Madhya Pradesh’s Balaghat made a new entry while Mandla has been flagged as a district of concern and Dindori was also brought under the ambit of the security related expenditure scheme, which shows that Maoists activity has witnessed a considerable increase in these areas in recent years.
Balaghat alone has had more than 82 naxal related violence incidents in the last five years. In the same period, Madhya Pradesh police had 26 exchanges of fire in which 13 Maoists were killed and three arrested.
Interrogation of the arrested cadres has revealed their strategy of deliberately reducing violent incidents to expand the well oiled extortion machinery to newer areas. Intelligence reports suggested that Maoists are using the funds available to them to recruit new members into their organisation and procure arms and ammunition.
But the bigger concern in the naxal infested areas of Chhattisgarh like Bijapur, Dantewada , Sukma and Narayanpur and the new naxal affected districts of Balaghat, Mandla, Dindori and Anuppur in Madhya Pradesh is the extortion economy. Similar threats are there in Telangana where the state police has been grappling with them in last few years .
Security officials said more than the threat from the violence perpetrated by the banned outfit, it is the continuing activity of extortion in the form of levies from tendu patta and bamboo contractors as source of funds for the outfit that raises concerns. “These threats are likely to increase in the run up to the polls,” said an official .
Although there is no official estimate of the extent of the tendu pata extortion economy in Balaghat, security forces assess that Maoists had been collecting money running into crores of rupees from tendu patta contractors in the district in any given season. An internal report says that Balaghat produces around 85,000 bags of tendu patta per season. Maoists often demanded levy ranging from Rs 500 to 900 per bag from the contractors. Security agencies are now trying to choke access to tendu patta levy funds to the Maoists.
Strict monitoring, technological interventions for storage transportation and choking the fund flow have created a model in Balaghat, which other districts are also following now. The idea is to slow down the vistaar plan (expansion) of the banned outfit and break this flow of funds in election-bound left wing extremism affected states.