Red Alert: pay pending NREGA wages or quit, Naxals warn MP sarpanches
After several years, the Maoists have reappeared in Madhya Pradesh. They recently abducted several sarpanches in Balaghat district, only to release them after an ultimatum: pay pending MGNREGA wages to poor labourers within 15 days or resign.The incident has rattled Panchayat leaders, despite the state administration assuring them of security. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan regime, however, is yet to decide whether to clear the pending wages or risk the Maoists' threat.The Maoists reportedly took the action after poor labourers employed under the MGNREGA in Balaghat complained that they had not been paid for over 10 months. According to sources, they approached the rebels after the state administration and the panchayats failed to address their grievances.The rebels promptly sent a squad that kidnapped 15-20 sarpanches – including from Songudda, Nauvi, Bithali, Arodi, Songudda, Dabri, Gulapur, Rashimeta, Dullapur, Guddapar, Gungunwarda, Pathari and Darkasa – and took them to the jungles of Baihar, their stronghold in southern Balaghat.There, they were questioned by a “Lok Adalat" about the delay in payment of wages. The sarpanches defended themselves by saying the government had not released the money.The “Lok Adalat" told them to settle the pending payments within a fortnight or quit their posts. If they fail to do so, the Maoists warned, they would all be shot dead.As news of the abduction spread, it caused panic among the sarpanchs and their families across Balaghat and neighbouring districts.It has also put the government in a dilemma: it's reportedly “making all efforts to pay the pending wages without giving any indication of Naxal pressure".The police, meanwhile, has sprung into action and is “keeping a close watch" on the situation". Balaghat SP Gaurav Tiwari said his men searched the place where the Naxals held the meeting, but didn't find anything. “We are on alert and are constantly sending information to the capital," he added.