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THE ANTI-NAXAL operations wing of the Maharashtra Police has drawn up a list of people in the Naxal-affected areas of Gadchiroli comprising mainly labourers, transporters, contractors carrying out development work and Naxal sympathisers for any possible attempt to assist Maoists in converting their now-demonetised currency notes.
Police said they had inputs villagers were approached by Maoists to exchange and deposit these currency notes. But a police probe revealed villagers refused to help the Maoists in depositing the cash in their accounts. “We had inputs that villagers in the Naxal-infested areas were coaxed by Maoists to deposit their now-untenderable currencies in their accounts. But a police scan of their accounts found the sums deposited belonged to the villagers,” said a senior police officer in the DGP’s office.
The officer said villagers mostly from the southwest region of Gadchiroli were approached by Maoists.
Sources said the anti-Naxal wing found up to Rs 45 lakh and Rs 25 lakh had been deposited in the Bank of Maharashtra and District Co-operative Bank in Gadchiroli district since the demonetisation was announced, but an evaluation of the money revealed these were earnings of villagers and don’t belong to Maoists. “Bamboo and bidi-leaf plantation has been profitable this year. So far, the accounts we have scrutinised do not indicate villagers deposited funds of Maoists,” said the officer. “But we will do a thorough scrutiny,” he added. There are 119 public, private and cooperative banks, and 72 ATMs in Gadchiroli district.
Sources said Maoists in Maharashtra would have a few crores on them. “Every year, the Maoists manage to raise around Rs 25 crore through extortion; of this 30 per cent is kept with the local cadre, the rest is given to the Central Committee. This 30 per cent would be Rs 2-3 crore, most of which will be in old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes,” said an official.
But, sources said, with the passage of time and the deadline to deposit the old notes nearing, police suspect Maoists will get desperate and might resort to extortion or violence. “…they need money. They had this habit of keeping notes of higher denomination, which has now become untenderable. They will face a financial crunch,” said Additional DGP (Special Operation) Bipin Bihari.
Asked if Maoists will resort to extreme means, Bihari said activities of Maoists were on a decline in Maharashtra. “Several members have either been eliminated or surrendered. There has been no fresh recruitments. But we are keeping a close watch on their activities,” he added.