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Raid hints at RTI link in Red gain

Jamui (Bihar), Feb. 14: Security forces raiding Maoist camps have recovered documents that suggest the rebels may be ferreting out key financial information on government projects by invoking the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The documents also reveal that the CPI(Maoist)’s eastern Bihar and north Jharkhand special area committee posted a gross profit of a little over Rs 9.82 lakh because of an increase in the “levy” — read coercion — during the last financial year (2012-13). Their annual budget during the period was Rs 3,24,84,269.

The figures were culled out from a copy of the annual budget for 2012-13 recovered by the security forces — comprising CRPF, STF and CoBRA battalions — during raids on a makeshift training camp of the Naxalites near Arahadih hamlet inside the dense Harni forests of Jamui district. The raids also threw up cash of around Rs 2.2 lakh.

Besides this, the security teams also stumbled upon over a dozen RTI applications seeking information on the annual turnover and financial status of government-sponsored public welfare projects like construction of roads, bridges and their work orders.

Intelligence sources are yet to establish a direct link between the information obtained through RTI and an increase in levy. But, the sources said, this could be an explanation for the steady flow of income for the Maoists who have otherwise incurred massive losses owing to the sustained operations of the security forces over the past two years.

An official with a construction company in Deoghar (Jharkhand) said the Maoists were using the RTI details to extort. “When the owner of our company was trying to negotiate the levy amount with the rebels, they produced the copy of an RTI reply from the irrigation department to show the actual cost of the project. The owner could not bargain any more and agreed to the amount the Maoists fixed,” said the worker who lives in Jhajha.

The budget documents make for interesting reading as it shows how meticulous the outfit is when maintaining accounts. The annual budget mentions different expenses like Rs 22,11,725 for organisational networking and advertisements and Rs 2,57,700 for “military” (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) training programmes. (See chart)

Jamui superintendent of police Jitendra Rana confirmed the document haul but refused to furnish details.

“We are verifying the facts, like use of RTI Act for knowing financial status of contractors and private construction companies, and about its annual budget,” he said.

Rana declined to elaborate on the plea that disclosure of names of those who used RTI would affect the probe.