As a result, the Naxals have now started snatching a significant part of the ration distributed to villagers under the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Bastar division during the ongoing crisis, the officials said.
Bastar region, spread over an area of about 40,000 sq km, is considered a stronghold of ultras and comprises seven districts of Dantewada, Bijapur, Bastar, Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Sukma and Kanker.
"As per the preliminary information, Maoists'' supply networks are facing a challenge to operate due to the restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of virus. To meet their need of essentials, Naxals are putting extra pressure on local villagers," Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P told PTI.
In the past as well, the local militia cadres of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) used to take ration from villagers and ask them to cook food for their group of about 10-15 members, but the bigger formations of Naxals arrange food and essential commodities through their designated supply team, he said.
Haat bazaars or village markets held in remote areas of Bastar, which have been closed due to the lockdown, served as an ideal destination for Maoist couriers to procure ration and items of daily use. Besides, local cadres also visit town areas to arrange such things, he said.
"But the fear of being caught if they move to urban areas in the current situation, Maoist couriers are preferring to arrange these things from local villagers resulting in burden on innocent tribals, who do not dare to refuse them," he said.
Dantewada Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallava said that security forces have been launching operations on getting inputs about Maoists looting the ration of villagers in remote areas in his district.
"We are constantly getting tip-offs that Naxals are snatching the month''s ration of villagers in Kirandul and Bhansi police station area of Dantewada," he said.
Notably, the state government has been providing two months (March and April) ration at one go free of cost to BPL cardholders across the state during the lockdown.
"Out of fear, villagers do not dare to report these incidents to police. Acting on one such input, we had launched an operation on April 16 in the forests along Dantewada- Bijapur border, during which a Naxal was killed in a gunfight," Pallava said.
Despite a complete ban on holding religious and social gatherings, Naxals have been convening meetings of villagers deep inside the jungles and taking away their ration.
This reflects Maoists'' insensitivity toward tribals in this period of crisis, he said.
Another police official posted in Bastar said, Maoists carry out annual ''tactical counter offensive campaign'' (TCOC) in summer, during which they intensify their offensive against the security forces.
In the initial part of the campaign, they generally stock a huge quantity of ration and other essential items, which would help them during their three-month (March-May) long offensive.
"Scarcity of supplies could have an impact on their conventional warfare strategy in the coming days," the official added. PTI TKP NP NP
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI