Trouble brewing over coffee plantations

TNN, Dec 20, 2010

CHINTAPALLY (VISAKHAPATNAM): Despite losing five Maoists in an encounter in Chintapally mandal recently and police intensifying combing operations, the party leadership is pushing hard to distribute 200 hectares of coffee plantations in Kumkumpudi, Eetaroppala, Lankapalaku, Kottapalli and Sapparla areas in the Agency to tribals. The plantations are in the custody of AP Forest Development Corporation (APFDC).

Maoists warned the APFDC officials not to venture into the Balapam-Korukonda coffee estates. The rebels had distributed 256 hectares (nearly 600 acres) of coffee plantations to 500 tribals at Marripakalu and Kumkumpudi estates in G K Veedhi mandal in 2008. Fearing reprisals from Maoists, APFDC officials have not ventured into Marripakalu plantation spread over 60 hectares in the last three years, sources said.

“Our employees are afraid to venture into the plantations as the estates are located in the reserve forest area where Maoists call the shots,” said APFDC incharge regional manager A N Gurumurthy. APFDC has 110 hectares of coffee plantations in Balpam and Korukonda areas in Chintapally mandal. “We are expecting an yield of 16 tonnes from the area. But with the Maoist pressure, the corporation could end up with a loss of Rs 30 lakh,” a senior official said.

The APFDC earned Rs 9.8 crore from sale of 670 tonnes of coffee granules last year and is expecting a revenue of Rs 15 crore from 1,000 tonnes of production. But its plans could go for a toss if the Maoists had their way.

There are nearly one lakh farmers cultivating coffee in 10 mandals of the Agency. While APFDC started cultivation in the East and Visakha Agency areas in 1961, Maoists have begun to take over the plantations in early 90s and distribute them to tribal farmers. With Maoists intensifying attacks on coffee plantations, pulping units and APFDC offices since 2005 and distributing coffee granules to tribals, officials closed down the Lankapakalu, Teemulabanda and Yarravaram pulping units. The only unit working in G K Veedhi mandal is in Chapagedda. Maoists tried to blast that unit three weeks ago.

Police on the other hand claim that Maoists are provoking innocent tribals to occupy the plantations. “If anyone tries to occupy the plantations or collect the coffee fruits they would be booked under the law,” Visakha rural SP Vineet Brijlal warned.

Meanwhile, top police officials said there has been no Maoist movement in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts though the reds maintain three companies of PLGA cadre in AOB. Vizag range DIG Sowmya Mishra conceded that a heavy recruitment of party cadre is being taken up in Narayanapatna forest block. “The Maoist companies are using light machine guns and planning to liberate Narayanapatna area,” sources said.

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