Security forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations as well as the red rebels have a reason to be worried now.

The counter-insurgency specialists are concerned over the rebels' ability to fabricate area weapons such as rocket launchers (RLs), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and anti-personnel mines (APMs) in clandestine workshops set up in Kolkata, Mumbai and other metros. And the Maoist leadership is troubled over the ability of intelligence operatives to bust the ultra-secret weapon-making units and nab or kill Maoist leaders.

Raids in Kolkata and Mumbai last week brought to light certain facts, which are quite worrisome to the security forces. The Maoists have not only been running weapon units in metros, but have also set up a major weapon assembly and manufacturing unit in the Bastar forests, possibly in Abuz Maad, an impregnable area.

The intelligence agencies have also learnt that the rebels spent Rs. 4-5 crore on research and on setting up units to manufacture RLs, RPGs, mortars, hand grenades and rifles. The seizure of Rs. 1.2 crore in Kolkata and Mumbai dens is by far the biggest-ever haul of cash in anti-Maoist operations.

The seizure of vanloads of parts, which could be assembled into thousands of RLs, RPGs, APMs and hand grenades, in Raipur and other places indicated that the first priority of the Maoists was to improve their striking capabilities. The spares, fabricated in Kolkata and Mumbai, are sent to Raipur through truck operators. The Maoists are suspected to be taking the help of some businessmen in Raipur to transport them to Bastar, intelligence sources told The Hindu .

What is confirmed now is that the Maoists have set up heavy workshops in the Bastar forests, where all the detached parts are assembled to make the area weapons. Earlier, intelligence agencies were puzzled over claims that those venturing into Abuz Maad heard a constant drone of heavy duty generators. Now sleuths suspect that these could be weapon-making units. Their belief is based on the seizure of aluminium and zinc castings in the raids.

Quoting interrogation reports, sources say, the Kolkata and Mumbai workshops have so far sent in parts which could make not less than 3,000 rockets. Interestingly, the designs of the RLs and rockets were found to be vastly improved when compared to the RLs seized in Andhra Pradesh in 2006 after the arrest of ‘Tech Madhu' and in workshops at Ambattur in Chennai subsequently. “The efficiency of rockets seized earlier was around 60 per cent. They have now improvised on them,” senior officials conceded.

The inclusion of area weapons in the arsenal of Maoists will help them defend their areas of control very well if the security forces venture into them. “The Maoists have built permanent structures in their strongholds like Gollapalli or Kishtaram. Area weapons such as RLs, RPGs, LMGs are extremely useful in halting the advance of the enemy. We depend solely on ground movement and not in using air power in counter-insurgency operations. In this scenario, use of rockets and grenades would be of tremendous benefit to the Maoists,” a senior police officer, who led several anti-naxal operations, said.

The picture, however, is not that rosy for the Maoists. While they have been holding their forte in their areas of operation in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, the security forces have managed to inflict maximum losses by arresting or killing top cadre leaders.

An analysis of the losses suffered by the Maoists in recent times reveals that most of the first-generation leaders have either been arrested or killed in controversial circumstances. This should be the biggest cause of concern for Maoists because they are losing the ideologically committed senior leaders in a situation where not many educated people are joining the ranks of the red rebels.