Malkangiri SP Akhilesh Singh said the nine, working for Lekcon Infrastructure Private Ltd, had been held with 50 kg of improvised explosive devices, gelatin powder, potassium nitrate and a large amount of Maoist literature.
Threatened by Maoists and facing financial losses due to delay in completion of road projects, the company allegedly agreed to supply explosives to Maoists on the Andhra-Orissa border area in exchange for letting work continue at its sites.
It was the sixth such incident this year of police intercepting vehicles of construction firms working in Orissa or Chhattisgarh and finding cash or goods meant for Maoists. In the past, the Andhra Police have seized medicines, food and rations, besides cash from employees of construction firms working in the two neighbouring states. The companies buckle in under threats by Maoists to kidnap or kill employees and destroy their equipment.
A Leckon Infra official, Narender Naidu, denied the charges, saying the explosives were meant for construction and that they were not connected to Naxalites in any way.
The BSF and Orissa Police seized the explosives from the SUV of Bhupal. The eight others travelling with him were also arrested. The nine were produced before a local court on Saturday.
Enjoying a good reputation, the Rs 200-crore Lekcon Infrastructure is involved in road construction in Balimela, Kalimela and Padia areas of Malkangiri district, apart from roads and irrigation projects in other parts of the state and Chhattisgarh. It also has a small raw materials mixing plant near Potrel village.
The employees had left Hyderabad on Thursday and had crossed the border into Orissa from Khammam. They were nearing Potrel in Malkangiri district where they allegedly were to hand over the explosives to Maoists when they were intercepted.
SP Singh said they had become suspicious of Bhupal’s movements as he had travelled once earlier to Malkangiri allegedly to deliver explosives to an arms dealer of the Maoists. “We received information that the vehicle carrying Bhupal and others was again on its way towards Potrel village and we intercepted it. Besides gelatin sticks, we also found nitric acid and 34 other types of explosives in various quantities in 12 gunny bags. Bhupal said he was going to deliver to Karunakar Reddy, who we believe is the arms dealer working for Maoists and is currently absconding. Bhupal as well as the owner of Leckon Infra, Purshottam Naidu, are well aware that the explosives would ultimately reach the Maoists,’’ Singh said.
“They had material which construction companies normally don’t require. The material are normally used for making claymore mines,” he said. “Around two weeks ago too they had brought around 80 kg of such explosives for Maoists. Though we had intelligence inputs then, we could not catch them redhanded.”
Police also found several new mobile phones and Maoist literature in Telugu in the vehicle which the company had allegedly got translated and printed on Maoists’ demand. A couple of bags containing more explosives were allegedly found dumped behind a small factory owned by Leckon Infra in Potrel village. A Tata Xenon vehicle and a Bolero pick-up vehicle were also seized.
Malkangiri police officials said apart from Karunakar Reddy, another arms dealer working for the Maoists in Chitrakonda area, Sudhakar Reddy, was to collect the consignment but fled when police intercepted the vehicle.
Officials of the anti-Maoist Special Intelligence Branch said construction and infrastructure companies were major targets of Maoists and were forced to pay protection money or provide medicines, food and rations or arms and explosives to them in exchange for letting their projects smoothly. In April, the general manager of a Pune-based construction firm was arrested by the Khammam Police with Rs 50 lakh in cash that he was carrying to be paid allegedly as protection money to Maoists in Chhattisgarh.
Apart from Bhupal, the eight arrested were C Sudhakar Naidu, T Yogananda, Y Lingamaya, N B Ravikumar, K Sudhakar, Pradeep Biswas, G Ratnam and Benu Madhab.