Apply Chhattisgarh’s special security law to Essar, says Congress


Raipur : The opposition Congress here has asked Chhattisgarh’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to proceed under the state’s stringent public security law against the Essar group, which is alleged to have provided huge protection money to Maoist rebels.

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“I demand that cases be registered against Essar Group owners for handing over massive amounts as ‘protection money’ to various factions of Maoists,” state Congress president Nandkumar Patel told IANS Friday.

He called for provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) to be invoked. “Definitely, the state government must apply CSPSA because it is a very serious issue,” said Patel, 58, who was appointed Congress chief in April this year.

The CSPSA, which human right activists call ‘draconian’, is one of the tougher laws in the country and exists in the state since 2006. A suspect may be denied bail for months under it.

“If CSPSA can be applied against physician-turned-rights activist Binayak Sen or tailors in whose shops uniforms akin to those of Maoists were recovered, why can’t it be used against Essar,” Patel asked.

The Congress leader, who has been home minister in Chhattisgarh and in undivided Madhya Pradesh, said someone at the very top in the state government was interfering in police investigation against the Essar Group.

Ankit Garg, superintendent of police in insurgency-hit Dantewada district, told IANS several Essar officials had been interrogated and notices sent to others to appear for questioning.

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

The interrogation of Essar officials followed the arrest of an Essar contractor, B.K. Lala, 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.

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

The Essar Group is charged with making huge payments to Dantewada-based Maoist factions for allowing a 267-km iron ore slurry pipeline — blasted at several places between Dantewada’s Kirandul and Andhra Pradesh’s port city of Visakhapatnam — to be reopened.

“Essar strongly refutes all these allegations,” Essar Group senior vice-president Manish Kedia told IANS. “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 work for us, as he has been a contractor for many other companies.”