While he offered his sympathy for small businessmen and traders forced to pay protection money to the Maoists, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said it was "certainly condemnable" if big corporations were channelling money to the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). "We will pass on information [about such payments] to the state government...it is for them to take action," said Mr. Chidambaram in response to a question at a press conference in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, this afternoon.

Mr. Chidambaram made his comments in the context of an ongoing police investigation into allegations that the Essar mining group paid significant amounts of money to the Maoists to safeguard the company's assets in rebel-affected territories in Chhattisgarh. Essar spokespersons have denied the allegations.

Speaking to the press, after a review meeting with Chief Minister Raman Singh, Mr. Chidambaram said that while violence in the state had declined this year, it could either imply a decline in Maoist activity or a tactical lull in the ongoing battle between security forces and the guerrillas.

"It is important we do not take our eye off the ball and remain vigilant," he said. At present, Chhattisgarh has 135 companies [about 13,500 soldiers assuming 100 men per company] of central paramilitary forces like the CRPF and BSF, and about 54,000 policemen. The state is also expected to recruit an additional 9000 policemen in 2012, and raise two additional Indian Reserve Battalions that are funded by the Central Government, but deployed locally. Last year, Chhattisgarh accounted for 26 percent of all Maoist attacks and 36 per cent of all Maoist-related deaths.

"The central government has extended full support to all states," Mr. Chidambaram said, noting that his government had sanctioned Rs 150 crores to build 75 fortified police stations in Maoist affected areas in Chhattisgarh. Commenting on the state of infrastructure in the state, he emphasised the importance of building infrastructure in areas shunned by private contractors. "The state must take the lead," he said, adding that the works could be taken up by the newly created police wing of the public works department.