Maoists operating in Malkangiri and Koraput districts of Orissa bordering Andhra Pradesh have increasingly started making demands for communication equipment such as walkie talkie sets and tablets from contractors involved in civil work in the areas, according to the interrogation report of a top Maoist arrested in February this year.
The interrogation report of Chandu alias Tella Anil Kumar, member of Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee and intelligence-in-charge for Malkangiri division, accessed by The Indian Express, reveals the Maoists also demand at least five per cent of the total cost of road contracts from the contractors. While five per cent is the initial demand, the rebels are at times flexible but won’t accept anything less than three per cent, top sources in the Orissa home department said.
Although money — or ‘levy’ as they call it — remains the primary demand, the Maoists insist on the walkie talkies and tablets from the contractors. “If not fulfilled, the party (CPI Maoist) asks for explosives. Lastly, money is accepted if no other option is left,” Chandu’s interrogation report says. However, he said only money is demanded from small contractors, shop-keepers and businessmen.
Incidentally, Chandu, a cobbler-turned-Maoist, himself never used any electronic device except a basic model cellphone unlike Maoist commander Duna Keshava Rao, who led the team that killed VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswatri in August 2008, who used laptops.
The Maoists, however, made a small concession for roadworks carried out by locals. If construction or repair works are being carried out by locals or by engaging locals, no levy is imposed. Chandu also told his interrogators that senior Maoist commanders were embezzling the money collected and using “private extortion as their post-retirement package”.
According to Chandu, one per cent of the cost of total agricultural products in the Andhra-Orissa border, such as tamarind, is demanded by the Maoists. He also revealed that the Re 1 a kg rice scheme of the Orissa government is being siphoned off by Maoists. The report said grampanchayats are asked to keep some rice for the Maoists.
Chandu also revealed that the CPI (Maoist) has been facing a cash crunch in recent times. His interrogation report said that to cut the expenditure, the Maoist group has decided to provide tea to the cadres only once a day because prices of milk powder and tea have gone up. “If any cadre does not like tea, he is not encouraged to develop this habit. Also cadres are encouraged to give up the habit of ‘khaini’,” the report said.
Other austerity measures include provision of meat only once a month. However, women and sick cadres are given one kg of almond per month for quick recuperation.
Home department sources revealed that top Maoist commanders who operated in the bauxite-rich zone of Koraput, Kalahandi and Rayagada regularly got money from the mining contractors.
Maoist commander D Srinivas alias Rabi, who was killed along with eight of his comrades in Basangmali hills of Kashipur block of Rayagada district in 2011, was reportedly collecting money from a top aluminum company operating in the area.