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Contractor behind bars
- Corporate-rebel liaisons

Raipur, Sept. 11: Dantewada police on Friday apprehended a contractor, who had allegedly helped the Essar Group to end a deadlock with Maoists over a pipeline issue.

B.K. Lala, a Kirandul-based contractor, was arrested carrying Rs 15 lakh in cash. He was transferring the amount to the Maoists on behalf of Essar Group as protection money. The group has a business interest in Dantewada, a rebel stronghold.

Based on inputs gathered from informers, the police laid a trap on Friday and arrested Lala along with Lingaram Kodopi, who was supposed to deliver the cash to the Maoists.

According to the investigating officer, the duo had planned to keep the cash in a hostel, located in a dense forest from where the rebels would have collected it. Sodhi Soni, the superintendent of the hostel, managed to escape.

After interrogation, the police on Saturday revealed the alleged nexus between the corporate and the Maoists.

“Lala confessed to carrying the money on behalf of Essar to pay the Maoists through Kodopi and Soni,” said Dantewada SP Ankit Garg. Based on his statement, an FIR was lodged against a senior official, whose name can not be disclosed,” he added.

Garg said the official would be summoned for interrogation and if required, top officials of the company would also be questioned, he added.

The breakthrough came about a year ago when reports of the corporate funding Maoists were exposed. This was before the WikiLeaks revelations of Essar Group paying Chhattisgarh-based rebels.

Speaking to The Telegraph a top intelligence official said, “Lala was kept under police observation for a year, soon after Essar’s pipeline operations resumed after being closed for nearly two years.”

The 267-km Essar pipeline, which carries iron ore slurry from a beneficiation plant at Bailadilla (Chhattisgarh), to its pellet plant at Visakhapatnam was blown up by Naxalites in June 2009 near Chitragonda (Orissa), close to Chhattisgarh border.

The damaged pipeline, could not be repaired following Maoist threats. This led to heavy losses for the group.

“Lala allegedly mediated for Essar and broke the deadlock,” the official said. The rebels later allowed the company to repair the pipelines. The operation resumed nine months ago, landing Lala in the police scanner.

A company spokesperson said it was inappropriate to comment on the allegations.

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