Maoists Go On Inflation Control Mode
By Yatish Yadav - NEW DELHI
Published: 01st Dec 2013 07:59:12 AM
In normal circumstances, political powers-that-be would have been more than happy. After all, someone was making an effort to keep prices of essential commodities in check, that too in rural areas. But these are far from normal times. A Chhattisgarh-based Maoist committee has issued a price list of 53 commodities to “control inflation” in tribal dominated areas, where their word is law. However, onions are missing from the list, indicating that even the armed rebels have little control over the vegetable which has the potential to make or break elected governments.
According to officials, Maoists dominate the forest produce market and merchants give in to their demands fearing reprisal. “They collect protection money from shopkeepers and middlemen to finance terror operations. Earlier, they used to target big contractors but now they are desperate to gain people’s support and money as they are losing ground,” an official said.
An intelligence officer involved in anti-Maoist operations said the latest theatrics of fixing prices is a damage control and face saving strategy after they failed to disrupt recent elections in Chhattisgarh despite assembling armed cadres from other states. However, the officer admitted that administrative vacuum in certain areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra was the main reason behind such arm-twisting tactics of the Maoists.
The unique price list reveals that Mahua has been priced at `30 per kg while several vegetables are priced between `10 and 15. Staple potato can only be sold for `10. Wheat and rice distributed through PDS by the state government is also missing from the price list.
The Maoists have also ensured that products made by tribals command better prices in the market. Wholesalers will have to pay `30 for one broom made with forest grass. Raw cow skin will command `300, while price for buffalo skin has been fixed at `500.
A source said security agencies will look into this latest price circular issued by the Maoists. However, he confirmed that the Centre is already working on a plan to remove middlemen from Naxal areas to crackdown on profiteering on forest produce. He said the move was planned to check the extortion money collected by Maoists. “All Naxalite affected states have been asked to rope in own agencies to buy forest produce directly from the villagers.”
He said Mahua or ‘Madhuca longifolia’ which is used for medicine and to make country liquor by tribals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, is sold at a high price by profiteers in the market after buying it at throwaway rates from villagers.