Essar officials questioned over payment to Maoists


Raipur : Senior officials here of the Essar Group have been questioned and others based outside Chhattisgarh will also be interrogated for allegedly paying ‘protection money’ to Maoists, a senior police official said Tuesday.

Support TwoCircles

“Some Essar Group officers, including a general manager posted in Dantewada, have been interrogated and notices have been sent to several others for their role in payment of massive money to Maoists,” Ankit Garg, superintendent of police (Dantewada district), told IANS over phone.

“The law will catch each and every official who channelised payments to Maoists. The probe is fast heading in a direction where all those involved in paying anti-national elements will be bared and put behind bars.”

The interrogation of Essar officials was made based on revelations by a contractor working for Essar, B.K. Lala.

Essar Group, however, denies paying the guerrillas.

“Essar strongly refutes all these allegations. Essar is fully cooperating with the authorities in the investigation. Essar has been hiring some equipment from the contractor in question. He was also doing miscellaneous contract work for us, as he has also been a contractor for many other companies,” Manish Kedia, senior vice-president (corporate affairs), Essar Group, told IANS.

Lala was arrested at a weekly market in Dantewada’s Palnar village Sep 9, where he is alleged to have handed over Rs.15 lakh in cash to journalist-cum-activist Lingaram Kodopi, who too was arrested.

Police claim Kodopi was receiving the money on behalf of Maoists, though human rights activists strongly denied the claims and said the tribal has been falsely implicated.

Garg said several documents of Essar Group in Dantewada have been analysed in the past week and “the preliminary findings into the cash payment episode are highly encouraging”.

A senior official at the police headquarters said the “payment of protection money to various Maoist factions is an extremely serious issue”.

“The transaction amount runs into several million rupees and is aimed at persuading several Dantewada-based Maoist factions to allow the Essar Group to reopen a 267-km long iron ore slurry pipeline, which has been blasted at several places between Dantewada’s Kirandul and Andhra Pradesh’s port city Visakhapatnam,” he said.

When asked what Essar officials have revealed to police during interrogation, he said: “They are saying ‘no idea’, but the probe is heading in the right direction and Essar can’t get away.”