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Maoists' poor hotbed is rich in ore

March 17, 2007 03:21 IST

Maoists are not the favourites of Bastar tribals. For the traditional inhabitants of forests, these men represent death, terror, destruction and a perpetuation of poverty. For businessmen, they act as natural repellants.

For a state so rich in mineral wealth, the tribal parts of Chhattisgarh have had remarkably little investment in the last two years. While the Vedanta group set up shop at Korba for aluminium and also a captive power plant with an investment of around Rs 15,000 crore last year, this is far away from Naxalite areas. Not one paisa has been invested in Kanker and Dantewada -- both loaded with iron ore, but also the heart of Naxalite insurgency.

It was on May 8, 2005, that Maoists picked out a mining unit of Hindalco, India's largest aluminium and copper producer, for the biggest guerrilla attack on a corporate facility in the country.

Around 200 Maoists stormed and shut down operations of Hindalco's aluminium mining unit at Saridih in the Maoist heartland and razed several buildings in the complex. Production remained affected for about a month.

The second attack came a year later. On February 10, 2006, hundreds of Maoists raided the magazine of National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), India's largest iron-ore producer, manually carrying away enough explosives to fill six trucks.

The NMDC's entire stock of explosives, used in mining, was stored at Hiroli in Dantewada district and was guarded by the Central Industrial Security Force.

On October 30, 2006, rebels raided NMDC again, this time at Bacheli, and destroyed a conveyor belt. Production remained affected for more than 15 days, causing a huge loss to the mining major.

Though the rebels have opposed the proposed steel plants of Tatas and Essar in the Bastar region, stating that they would not allow the companies to exploit minerals, they have not come out in the open.

The villagers are opposing land acquisition by both companies. But the Maoists are yet to share the dais with them, as in Nandigram.

R Krishna Das in Raipur
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