Patna : They indulge in extortion, but Maoists are also luring villagers to take up poppy cultivation over hundreds of acres of land in Bihar to generate funds, say police.
After a police crackdown on extortion by the rebels in the last two years, they appear to have turned to poppy cultivation in a big way in the remote areas of Gaya, Rohtas, Kaimur, Aurangabad, Nawada, Banka, East Champaran, Katihar and Jamui districts, police say.
Maoists have been paying villagers at the rate of Rs.1 lakh per kattha (1,361 sq. feet) for the upkeep of poppy plantations. “This is more than 20 times what farmers earn from paddy, wheat and other cash crops,” a police official said , speaking on condition he was not named.
“There are several undisclosed pockets in rural areas, where the Maoists run a parallel administration. These remain out of reach for police and poppy cultivation is believed to be thriving there,” said an official posted at the police headquarters here.
“The Maoists’ involvement in poppy cultivation was revealed recently in Gaya and Rohtas districts, when security forces raided some rural pockets and destroyed the crop,” he said.
The security forces destroyed poppy crop in 10 acres of land in Hasadi village in Rohtas district.
Rohtas Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj said security forces found poppy cultivation during combing operations in the village. “We have information of poppy cultivation in several such villages under the control of the Maoists. Police will target them soon,” he said.
Gaya Superintendent of Police Satyabir Singh said that standing poppy crop in 20 acres of land under the control of the Maoists in the forest area near Barachatti in Gaya district was destroyed two days ago.
“The Maoists have chosen to cultivate poppy in a well-planned manner with the help of local people and its cadres. It has become the most potent route for revenue generation for the rebels, who have been forced to be on the run by security forces in Bihar and neighbouring states,” Singh said.
Magadh range Deputy Inspector General of Police N.H. Khan said on telephone that security forces had launched a major operation against poppy cultivation by Maoists to block their revenue channels.
“The joint operation of Bihar Police and central paramilitary forces in Gaya destroyed poppy plants at several places in two days,” Khan said.
He said the action against poppy cultivation would continue in the coming days.
Earlier, police destroyed poppy plantations in Rohtas, Kaimur, Katihar and Aurangabad districts.