The Maoists milk the drug mafia promising them "protection" in return for money. This nexus is a problem in states such as Orissa and West Bengal. A couple of years ago, the Orissa government constituted the Justice P K Mohanty Commission to probe the narco-Maoist link. It submitted its report in December 2008. It said the Maoists protect cannabis cultivation in hilly and inaccessible parts of Malkangiri, Gajapati, Ganjam and Bargarh.
The Maoist brigade in West Bengal too has started lording over the Bengal drug mafia, "guaranteeing" them protection from other extortionists and even ensuring that big gangsters do not poach on smaller ones. In return, the Maoists extract a hefty bounty.
Unlike most other Maoist-dominated states where the rebels homed in on mineral rich areas, in Bengal the rebels' core bases are far away from the mining zones. The seizure of various Maoist documents in recent times reveals that the Bengal unit was not financially independent during the initial stages of the Lalgarh movement in late 2008.
"Account-related documents seized from arrested Maoists have shown that the Bengal unit was dependent on the funds of the party's eastern bureau," said a senior CID officer. But as the movement gained momentum, and more cadres had to be armed, fed and paid, the Bengal chapter of the party was asked to generate its own resources. The Maoist-backed People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) in Lalgarh was assigned to collect money, and they went about the task ruthlessly.
PCPA activists started by targeting local timber merchants, petrol pumps owners, sponge iron factories and brick kilns. The rich were forced to pay a regular levy. In no time, the desperate PCPA cadres targeted schoolteachers and government service holders, a CID officer said.
"PCPA kept a part of the booty for itself and gave the rest to the mother outfit," the officer added. But given Lalgarh's impoverished state, the PCPA could not collect enough. They only managed Rs 5 lakh-6 lakh a month. "Even when the whole of Lalgarh was under Maoist control, the PCPA could not collect more than Rs 10 lakh a month," a senior district police officer said.
The Maoists had to find another source of income. They started strengthening their Bhagirathi Teesta special zonal committee, which operates in Nadia and Murshidabad districts of Bengal, police said. Both districts have long porous borders with Bangladesh and villages on the border are notorious for poppy cultivation.
Intelligence agencies believe that Maoists are now active in both these districts and provide security to poppy dealers for a protection fee. They make no less than a few crores a year this way, official estimates say. "The druglords of this area earn at least Rs 200 crore a year from poppy cultivation. Like the Colombian terrorist outfit FARC, the Maoists are trying to control the druglords for funding as it can bring a huge amount of money," an intelligence officer said.
TNN, Feb 15, 2011, 03.23am IST
(Inputs from Caesar Mondal in Kolkata and Sandeep Mishra in Bhubaneswar)