A file photo of security personnel inspecting the site of Maoists’ ambush in Bastar where the Congress party’s convoy was attacked on May 25, 2013. Picture for representational purposes only PTI
Essar had built a ‘naxal ecosystem’ in areas like Bastar and other areas hit hard by Maoist violence. Internal emails of Essar, accessed by dna, show that the company was doling out favours to top cops, politicians and bureaucrats in Moaist-affected areas of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
Internal mails are part of a PIL filed by NGO CPIL through senior advocate Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court on Friday. The PIL seeks court monitored investigation by CBI or a special investigation team into the high-level political-bureaucrat-corporate nexus.
Internal emails point to startling tactics employed by Essar in Maoist-hit areas. In one such email sent by Rajamani Krishnamurti, Essar’s senior vice-president, the company desperately wanted CRPF men to protect its pipeline. But the DG (Special Intelligence) of Andhra Pradesh VC Sajjanar was opposed to CRPF men being deployed for a corporate entity. He offered the services of the Central Industrial Security Force. But Essar felt that CISF was no match to the CRPF’s lethality.
Sajjanar then gave Essar a solution. He asked Essar to build a road for about 16 to 20 kilometres as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. Sajjanar would then deploy CRPF men on the road close to which the pipeline runs. “We do not have to pay for (CRPF) deployment then. It would be a one-time expenditure of Rs 12 to 15crore. He (Sajjanar) said we would make this an initiative of the government without exposing our name,” says the email.
Sajjanar, who is now with the National Investigation Agency, denies favouring Essar. “The area is a hotbed of Maoist violence. We only wanted to set up armed outposts on the vulnerable road. I completely deny your allegations,’’ he told dna.
It was not just Indian Police Service personnel but also Indian Administrative Service officers in Maoist areas who were beneficiaries of Essar’s favours, consistently. Essar also booked cars for personal visit of Bastar’s then commissioner Durgesh Mishra.
On December 2, 2012, Essar officials met Mishra. Mishra advised Essar on its Corporate Social Responsibility funding and its division between the violence hit districts of Sukma and Dantewada. Mishra then requested Essar to provide him a car and the company’s guest house in Delhi.
Mishra wanted Essar’s largesse for attending a Home Ministry training session between Dec 9 and 17, 2012. Essar emails show that Mishra was given the car to move around in Delhi for the home ministry event. Mishra asked for a Toyota Innova but Essar gave him a Maruti Swift instead. Essar politely turned down his request for the company’s guesthouse citing full occupancy. The internal email by Essar official Varsha Jha says, “I feel Mishra is very helpful to us so we can arrange a local cab for him from Dec 9 to 17”. Mishra did not respond to dna’s calls.
Even more startling is Essar’s eye on officers and their future postings in the Maoist-hit areas. One of the officers who was favoured by Essar was DGP (Prisons) of Chattisgarh, Giridhari Nayak. The IPS officer had demanded Essar to sponsor six students of National Law University, Raipur by paying them Rstwo lakh. Internal emails of Essar reveal how this donation was masked as CSR.
The email dated July 9, 2013 reads, “We should fund this as Nayak is going to be the DGP of Chattisgarh from January 2014 and has more than seven years of service with him. Make it a CSR activity. We should help. I am sure he will be helpful for us in the future.”
What completed Essar’s ‘naxal ecosystem’ was its influence with local Congress politicians and the local press. In 2011, an Essar contractor BK Lala was arrested for paying money to naxals and Essar officials charged with sedition. Lala had then turned government approver and promised to expose other Essar officials who were funding naxals. Internal Essar emails reveal that the company then took the help of local Congress politician Avadesh Gautam to turn the tables on Lala. Essar’s clout was so mighty that it even managed to make the Congress politician read public statements against Lala drafted by Essar’s corporate communications team.
The email written by Rajamani Krishnamurti, senior VP of Essar dated July 12, 2012 reads, “I spoke to Avadesh Gautam of Congress from Dantewada, Kirandaul and requested his support in making press statements against Lala and his extortion tactics. He said he would help in getting statements issued through Bastar an Kirandaul unit presidents respectively. He wanted the draft statements from us in Hindi that we intend to get to the press. Send the drafts statements ASAP.”
Essar did not respond to pointed queries by dna, but released a general press note saying, “We are a law-abiding company and responsible corporate citizen and have not indulged in any wrongdoing.’’
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