Essar official arrested for paying Maoists

Essar official arrested for paying Maoists

New Delhi: An official of the Ruias-led Essar Group was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly paying protection money to Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district.

General manager of Essar Group, D.V.C.S. Verma, was arrested by Dantewada police and remanded in police custody for two days by a district court. The police have registered a case against him.

B.K. Lala, a contractor, was arrested earlier this month in the same case.

“Jairam Kohra, sarpanch (village head) of Badapadar village in Malkangiri district of Orissa, was the facilitator of the payments. He later turned approver and is cooperating with the police," said a Union government official, who did not want to be identified. “This will act as a deterrence for other corporates who pay the Maoists."

Essar Group, in an emailed statement, denied the allegations. “Essar would like to state that such baseless allegations are being made to hurt the image and reputation of the group, which is a law-abiding corporate," it said.

Essar Steel, an arm of the diversified Essar Group, runs an 8 million tonne per annum pellet plant at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. A 267km iron ore slurry pipeline that supplies the company’s Vizag plant originates in the ore-rich area of Bailadila in Chhattisgarh and runs through Maoist territory.

Since 2005, the company’s facilities have been damaged 15 times by Maoist rebels. According to the company, the last major Maoist attack was on its Chitrakonda plant in Orissa in May 2009.

This is not the first time Essar Group’s name has been associated with Maoists.

Mint reported on 30 August that a secret diplomatic cable between the US state department and US missions around the world, released by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, suggested that Essar Group paid protection money to Maoists. Essar had denied the claim.

Many of India’s mineral projects are located in remote forests populated by tribals, which form the pocket boroughs of Naxals.

Mint reported on 31 July 2007 that pay-offs were a way of life for companies that had to set up businesses in Naxalite or terrorism-affected areas.

PTI contributed to this story.