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Centre�s bid to prevent extortion

By Spl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, April 26 � The financial assistance to pro-talk group of ULFA was sanctioned by the Centre to dissuade the members from extorting money to cover their daily expenditures.

In the face of the controversy generated over the issue, sources in the Home Ministry clarified the amount of Rs 40 lakh was first instalment to the outfit. The amount was given to the outfit through Assam Government. The money has since been handed over to one of the leaders of the pro-talk group, the Centre was informed, said sources.

As reported the Home Ministry released the first instalment of financial assistance to the ULFA leaders to cover maintenance expenditure of 400 cadres.

�We have disbursed the money to the ULFA through the Assam Government. The money has been given to take care of the daily expenses of ULFA members and other family requirements,� a Home Ministry official had said. The Centre may release more funds to the banned group in the coming days.

Sources said that the decision was taken to release the funds after a ULFA leader Arpan Saikia was arrested with an activist of MASS at Guwahati in March. They were arrested after they arrived to allegedly pick up the extortion money.

Sources said a high-level meeting held at the MHA chaired by Home Secretary G K Pillai and attended by officials of Government of Assam took stock of the situation before finalizing a plan to bail out the pro-talk members from the �financial crisis� facing them. Part of the strategy was also to discourage the group from resorting to extortion, said sources.

Militant outfits in North-east often resort to extortions and forcible tax collection to source funds. Frustrated by the extortion drive operated by the Naga militant outfits, the MHA had once proposed to fund the entire budget of NSCN (I-M). The deal, however, could not be clinched.

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