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Govt puts Maoist ‘levies’ at Rs 140cr

New Delhi, July 22: Maoists collect around Rs 140 crore in illegal “levies” annually from various sources, the Centre told Parliament today, quoting a 2013 study by think tank Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

Junior home minister Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that the CPI (Maoist) extracts such “levies” from industrialists, businessmen, contractors, government officials and the mining mafia.

While unofficial estimates crop up about the sources and scope of the rebels’ finances, this is the first time in recent memory that the Centre has spelt out a figure in Parliament.

“Though an exact quantification is not possible, a study conducted by the IDSA has assessed that the CPI (Maoist) has been collecting not less than Rs 140 crore annually from a variety of sources,” Rijiju said in the reply.

However, a researcher who worked on the IDSA study said the guerrillas could be collecting up to Rs 250 crore annually.

The rebels use the money to maintain cadres and buy arms, besides funding propaganda.

The bulk of such “levies” are collected from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, with the money from the two states used to set up bases in new areas like Assam, the researcher said.

This is unlike in Odisha, where such illicit funds are ploughed back into Maoist activities in the state, sources said.

In 2011, an Essar group general manager was arrested by Chhattisgarh police on charges of paying the rebels “protection money”.

However, Rijiju’s move to cite the figures of a think tank raised eyebrows. That insurgent groups, particularly Maoists, collect crores in such illegal payments is well known.

But many had expected Rijiju to cite intelligence agencies’ data, which is usually the case when the government provides numbers on terror groups and militant outfits, often with documents to support them.

The move to cite the IDSA numbers is being seen as a sign of the problems in getting such information on Maoists.

The IDSA researcher seemed to highlight some of the challenges in gleaning such data when he said the methodology used in the 2013 study was not “scientific”.

“The study is rudimentary and not scientific. (But) it has been done through six months of travelling and interviews with a cross-section of people,” the researcher added.

Another IDSA source said the study’s figures differed hugely with what he described as the “unrealistic” internal estimates of intelligence agencies.

While the IDSA report mentions a few hundred crores, intelligence agencies are believed to have estimated such “levies” above Rs 1,000 crore.

Publicly, home ministry officials claim the Intelligence Bureau has no official figures on such payments.