THE Gadchiroli police Wed-nesday recovered Rs 1.01 crore from the three tendu contractors who were arrested on Tuesday. Pahadiya Tapla, Ravi Tankam and Nagraj Samayya Putta — all from Telangana — were arrested at Alapalli on Tuesday when they were travelling in a car with Rs 75 lakh cash and some Naxal literature. The police had said that the money was being passed on to Naxalites in Bhamragad. The three men have been remanded in police custody. The recovery was made on Wednesday from Botlacheru village in Aheri tehsil from a makeshift camp used for tendu leaves collection. “During interrogation, the three persons revealed the location of the money. We recovered it from a box at the camp,” Sub-Divisional Police Officer of Aheri Gajanan Tompe told The Indian Express.
Additional Superintendent of Police R Raja said, “Rs 75 lakh were supposed to be handed over to either Bhamragad or Sironcha dalums and the Rs 1.01 crore recovered today were for Aheri dalum.”
The three tendu contractors were arrested under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Sources said, “Naxalites generally give responsibility of collecting tendu protection money from 10-12 contractors to one particular contractor in a given area. Last year, the going rate per standard bag of tendu leaves charged by Naxals was Rs 180. Gadchiroli generally collects about 3 lakh bags in a season that barely extends to about a month in April-May. Thus, last year, the Naxals collected Rs 5.4 crore from Gadchiroli alone.”
As reported earlier by The Indian Express, Gadchiroli has witnessed a quantum leap this year in tendu business due to high market rates. The tendu revenue for the gram sabhas this year is estimated to be in the range of about Rs 350-400 crore, which is an all time record. This means windfall also for Naxals. At Rs 300 per bag, they would take home about Rs 9 crore. But if the Rs 1.76 crore seized by the police were indeed supposed to be handed over to Naxals, their booty would be lesser by that much amount.