Bastar: Almost three weeks after the government banned 500 and 1,000 rupee notes the situation in many cities is now gradually returning to normal. The centre had claimed that the move will not only affect people who are hoarding black money, but also financially cripple the Maoists. So has the currency ban really affected the Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Bastar?
Inspector General of Bastar region SRP Kalluri had, a week ago, said: "Just a week after the demonetisation, we killed 20 Maoist. The currency ban has made the Maoists desperate to exchange old notes and that is why they are coming out of their hideouts."
To gauge the real impact of the notes ban on the group, NDTV travelled to some remote villages in the Maoist stronghold. Near Hukpaad village, a 26-year-old man was on his way to sell milk products and deposit his savings of Rs 20,000. He confirmed to NDTV that just 2 days ago, the Maoists had held a meeting in his village.
The villager, who wished anonymity, told NDTV: "Two days ago, Dhosil, the naxal area commander, held a meeting and told us about the note ban. He appealed to the villagers to exchange their notes as well. They have a lot of money. They did not give any notes for exchange during the meeting. But later if they did, I would not know."
Ever since demonetisation, security forces have been conducting surprise checks across Bastar to seize what they suspect is Maoist money. The state government says that after the currency ban, the Jan dhan accounts in rural areas have seen a spike in deposits, a large portion of which could belong to Maoists.
Chattishgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh had earlier claimed," In Chhattisgarh, Rs 10,000 crore has been deposited in Jan Dhan accounts. Of this, a large sum was deposited in accounts of the people in Bastar. These accounts will be scrutinised to check if it belongs to Maoists."
Speaking to NDTV, Chhattisgarh Home Minister Ram Sewak Paikra said,"The note ban has crippled Maoists who take taxes from people. There have been reports of Maoists asking villagers to deposit money into their accounts."
However, Badarna, a former Maoist commander, disagrees with the state government's claims.
"The state government may be claiming that in Bastar Rs 300 crore has been deposited in Jan Dhan accounts and a large portion of which could belong to the Maoists. It definitely isn't the money of the villagers, it may belong to some businessmen and politicians."
"Police claim Maoists are agitated by the ban and so they are coming out to exchange the banned notes and are being killed. This is not true. Maoists will cautiously exchange their notes before the deadline. But most of the old currency notes will go to waste," said Badarna, who was part of the movement for two decades.
Inside Bastar, Maoists seem to be in a wait-and-watch mode and are taking the help of a select group of people to get their old currency notes exchanged. Sources claim, Maoists for the next few months are planning to take taxes in cash anymore but in material goods like clothes, medicine, and shoes.