Rs 1,000 cr in hands of ‘Naxal-backed’ panch, officials fear misuse
Voters in Bastar villages have elected their representatives — Maoist-supported panch and sarpanch. Of 22,416 panch elected by the villagers recently in seven districts of Bastar region, nearly 50 per cent or 11,098 candidates won unopposed. Besides, 212 sarpanch also won unopposed. At least 90 per cent of them, the Chhattisgarh police said, either have links with Maoists or were supported by the rebels. Several among 1,628 gram panchayats in Bastar would now witness these panch directing and monitoring various government schemes costing at least Rs 1,000 crore annually. Maoists have always acknowledged receiving funds through commissions from such schemes in Bastar. Concerned by the verdict, Sukma SP D Shravan and ASP Santosh Singh visited interior areas immediately after the results to meet the newly-elected representatives.
“We spent a week inside and met some of them. We know that they have links (with Maoists); we know that they were backed by those people (Maoists), but we told them that now you have chosen the path of democracy, you have a responsibility towards the government,” Singh said. About the possibility of misuse of funds, Singh said: “We will watch them carefully. The administration will have to ensure that funds do not reach Maoists. All works will now have to be properly audited. If they (panch) show that they have done some work, they will have to produce photographs and other details.” The maximum presence of Maoist-backed representatives is in the three southern and the western Narayanpur districts of Bastar, where of total 6,963 panch, 5186 or 75 per cent have won unopposed.
Almost all of them are in interior areas with little administrative presence. Of 1,107 panch in Narayanpur, the seat of Abujhmaad, 938 were elected unopposed. Of 2,169 panch in Bijapur, 1,785 were elected unopposed, while 1,335 of 1,709 panch in Dantewada, and 1,128 of 1,978 panch in Sukma won unopposed. The results mirror 2010, when 10,980 of 21,194 panch, and 181 of 1,438 sarpanch were elected unopposed in Bastar. ADG (Naxal Ops) RK Vij “welcomed the move as people are joining democracy”, but cautioned “we will have to ensure that there is no misuse of funds”. Panchayats, as constitutional bodies, hold immense financial powers. Recently, CM Raman Singh had released Rs 150 crore for gram panchayats.
A gram panchayat constitutes a sarpanch and around 10 panch. Underlining the significance of panchayats, Chhattisgarh’s Chief Election Commissioner P C Dalai told The Indian Express: “Many of the social security schemes like rural employment generation programmes, old age pension are implemented directly through Panchayats. They constitute the real democracy at the grassroots.” Various studies suggest that a little or no work takes place in interior Bastar, but funds are mostly shown spent. The most recent case is of Dantewada, which won the award for best implementation of MNREGA, incidentally when the panchayat polls were on.
Arms, ammunition found in Naxal-hit jungle
The police today found arms and ammunitions from Naxal-hit Murpa jungle in Mahuatand police station of Bokaro district, a senior police officer said. Acting on an information, the police launched a massive search operation and recovered two SLR, three Masket Rifles, One 3.9 bore rifle, three 303 bore rifle, 400 live cartridges including 362 live cartridges of 7.6 bore, a flash light, wires, mobiles phone and naxal literatures, Superintendent of Police, A Vijayalaxmi said.
Odisha Govt seeks two copters for anti-Maoist operations
Odisha government urged the Centre today to provide two MI-17 or equivalent helicopters to the state for undertaking anti-Maoist operations in an effective manner. “I would request you to consider deploying two MI-17 or equivalent helicopters in the state at the earliest for effectively undertaking anti-naxalite operations,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a letter to Unoin Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Patnaik said he had earlier requested the then Home minister in a letter on October 29, 2010 for stationing two dedicated MI-17 Helicopters at Koraput and Bhubaneswar for anti-naxalite operations in Odisha. In response, the then minister of state for Home Affairs in his letter of November 26, 2010 had intimated that Government of Odisha could hire a helicopter as per the approval given by the ministry to the work plan of the state under SRE (Security Related Expenditure) scheme of central government for 2010-11, he said.
The state government had hired one MI-172 helicopter from Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL) and made it operational from August 7, 2011 for movement of force in Maoist affected areas and evacuation of casualties, Patnaik said in the letter copy, which was released here. However, because of prolonged pilot strike, the services of MI-172 helicopter by PHHL is not available to the state for operational purposes and the company has replaced it with an eight-seater Dauphin helicopter, including four crew members, with effect from 4th February, 2013 which is now in service, the chief minister said. “The state government has also requested the ministry of Home Affairs time and again to deploy two MI-17 or equivalent helicopters in the state. However, it has not yet materialised. Due to non-deployment of Government of India helicopters, the state government had to hire the Dauphin Helicopter from PHHL,” he said.
Hardcore Maoist held in Aurangabad
Aurangabad: A hardcore Maoist has been arrested from a locality under Goh Police Station area in Bihar’s Aurangabad district, a police officer said Monday. Acting on a tip off, police raided a hideout near Bihuri canal last evening and arrested a hardcore Maoist, identified as Nand Das, with a pistol and some ammunition, Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Anwar Javed said. Das, a native of Majhiyawan village under Konch Police Station area of neighbouring Gaya district, was wanted by the police in connection with a number of incidents of violence in Aurangabad and Gaya districts, he said. He was also involved in an attack on a police camp at Jajapur in Gaya district two years ago in which three SAP jawans among six persons were killed by the ultras who had also looted a large quantity of arms and ammunition from the said police camp.
UAV base set up in Chhattisgarh
In a boost to the anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh, the base of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) has finally been set up in the state. The aerial vehicle quietly made its first test-reconnaissance from an airstrip in the Bhilai Steel Plant campus on Friday. The UAV will have its base station at a location in Nandini village of Bhilai, as a joint team of NTRO and Indian Air Force will handle its operations. The UAV makes sorties over the forested zone of Dandakaranya and takes images useful in security operations.
Its previous base station was in Begumpet, Hyderabad. Whenever the Chhattisgarh Police wanted any information about the location of Maoists, it had to first send an application to the NTRO. The images often arrived with a considerable time lag, making it difficult for the police to effectively utilise the input. Now, the UAV’s inputs will be streamed live at certain strategic locations, including Raipur police headquarters, offices of police superintendents of Maoist-hit districts and office of Bastar IG, among others. The UAV is likely to be connected with these offices within months. The forces, however, also cautioned against any euphoria about the immediate success against Maoists as being claimed in some quarters.
Extremely forested terrain and cloudy weather pose major challenges for obtaining quality pictures. It is an important addition, they say, but requires very high precision. The Indian Express has seen several images and videos sent by UAV in Bastar. The images come across as tiny objects on the ground and it becomes fairly impossible to identify Maoists. On an occasion, for instance, some officers had taken a long linear movement of tiny black dots to be a marching army of the insurgents. The pattern of their movement, officers assumed, resembled that of Maoist cadres. It was later revealed that they were tribals travelling together for a weekly market in a distant village.
Four Maoists involved in Gaya landmine blast arrested
Four Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres have been arrested from Sherghati area in Gaya on February 28 for their alleged involvement in the February 24 landmine explosion in which two personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed, reports The Telegraph. Acting on a tip-off, a joint team of Gaya Police and CRPF conducted raids in half-a-dozen villages under Dumaria Police Station of the District and arrested Binod Yadav from Khardag, Mithilesh from Bijua, and Ajay Kumar and Mohammad Ibrar from Kolhubar village.
During the interrogation, the arrested Maoists told the Police that ammonium nitrate was used to blow up the bus carrying the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) battalion troopers to their base camp after a search operation. The explosives were stashed in two 5kg cylinders and planted under the road connecting a culvert.