Demonetisation fails to slow down Naxals

NEW DELHI: In the central hinterlands and the tribal badlands where Red Terror has held bloody sway for almost 49 years, shadow money continues to flourish even after the note ban. Naxalite funding has enabled the purchase of sophisticated weaponry and explosives to carry out numerous attacks on political leaders, bureaucrats and security forces. Various estimates by intelligence and security agencies put the annual Maoist swag at around Rs 125-130 crore.

Agencies and the police were hoping that the surprise ‘surgical strikes’ against black money and counterfeit currency following demonetisation would cripple the vast, shadowy financial empire Maoists have built through extortion, kidnapping and drugs. To an extent, note bandi did clamp down on terror financing from across the border. But the game-changer move is facing an uphill battle domestically. Fresh intelligence inputs from ground zero have triggered a fear in the security establishment that Naxalites may have devised fresh mechanisms to exploit the financial system in order to beat the anti-black money measures taken by the NDA government.

An intelligence report reviewed by The New Indian Express suggests that Maoists in Manika of Latehar district of Jharkhand have managed to generate capital in the form of new currency by misusing bank accounts of villagers and cadre of over-the-ground groups like Krantikari Committee. Similar reports were received from Kondagaon, Chhattisgarh.

“Villagers in Naxal-affected areas should be sensitised to generate intelligence and monitor such illegal activities to choke off the supply of new notes. Mobilisation of local population against the efforts of Naxals to convert black money into white will become a veritable force-multiplier and disrupt their financial network,” the report said.

A senior official serving in the Naxal hotbed said the extremists try to stay at least a step ahead of the intelligence agencies. “We are trying hard after demonetisation to ensure that Naxalite terror money doesn’t make its way into the regular financial system. But in areas where government presence is minimal, local villagers are left to the mercy of armed insurgents. Hence, our effort is not yielding the desired results,” he said. Intel sources say they are monitoring Maoist conduits as reports suggest that new notes have reached the ultras through construction companies, tendu leaf contractors and mine operators.