The West Bengal government has admitted a lapse in security and ordered an inquiry into the police role in the turn of events that led to Monday’s Maoist strike at an Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) security camp at Silda in Paschim Medinipur district. Twenty-four jawans were killed in the incident.

The inquiry is being conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department.

“It is not that there was no lapse. According to administrative procedure, through an inquiry, we will have to establish the guilt and we will have to punish the guilty [including officers]. That process will be started soon,” Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen said here on Wednesday.

Questions whether the police intelligence network was found wanting have been raised. Mr. Sen said there were intelligence inputs about people assembling in the area, though there was no specific information on their planning a strike. There was need for gathering further information.

Asked why no step was taken when the administration had an intelligence report on people assembling near the camp, Mr. Sen said it reached the authorities around 2 p.m. (about three hours prior to the attack) and it took time for the information to trickle down to the lower ranks on the spot.

“The absence of sufficient preparedness at the camp cost the jawans their lives and resulted in the loot of arms, both a major setback to the forces,” Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh said.

A report on the incident has been sent to the Centre. A two-member Central team visited Silda. An assessment of the developments was made at a high-level meeting, where Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti and senior police officials, including Mr. Singh and Mr. Sen, were present.

On questions being asked about the location of the camp, Mr. Sen said the administration was planning to shift it but that was not done as the locals insisted on its being there. This despite the administration’s concerns that it was not quite a suitable location for an EFR camp. Mr. Singh also said the camp location was not suitable.

Further steps have been taken for fortification of security camps in the Maoist-affected areas. Refuting charges that the jawans, belonging to the EFR, at Silda did not have the training to combat Maoists, Mr. Sen said: “They are a highly motivated, disciplined and well-trained force.”

According to the rules, a compensation of Rs.15 lakh will be given to the bereaved families of security personnel in the Maoist-affected areas . Besides, one member of the family will be provided a job on compassionate grounds. “We are trying to provide compensation within four or five days,” Mr. Sen said.

He decried attempts by certain quarters to cause a rift by suggesting that Gorkhas were the ones put in the line of fire during action against Maoists. Such remarks were “irresponsible” and incorrect.

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