Manager at Essar Arrested for 'Assisting' India's Maoist Rebels

Senior manager charged with paying $30,000 to rebels.

A senior Indian manager of the multinational Essar company has been arrested for allegedly paying cash to the country's violent Maoist rebels, police said on Sept. 27.

The Maoist insurgents hold sway over large parts of east and central India, and have often been accused of demanding protection money from companies operating in areas they control.

"Essar general manager D.V.C.S Verma was arrested today for assisting the Maoists," said Ankit Garg, the police chief of Dantewada district in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

Police said the arrest followed the detention earlier this month of an Essar contractor who was allegedly caught handing 1.5 million rupees (US$$30,000) in cash to a supposed Maoist agent.

Essar, which operates a pipeline carrying iron ore slurry through Dantewada district, rejected police accusations of paying the Maoists to ensure the system was not sabotaged.

"The Essar Group vehemently rejects all allegations made regarding payments to Maoists," it said. "Essar would like to state that such baseless allegations are being made to hurt the image and reputation of the group."

Dantewada district, about 280 miles south of state capital Raipur, is a major Maoist stronghold which has seen a series of deadly Maoist strikes against the police in the last two years.

The Maoist movement, which began in 1967, feeds off land disputes, police brutality and corruption, and is strongest in the poorest and most deprived areas of India, many of which are rich in natural resources.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has labelld the Maoist movement the most serious threat to India's internal security, earlier this month urged state governments to increase pro-poor welfare measures to help counter the rebels.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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