West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday said that failure, if any, was at the camp level leadership when Maoists attacked Silda camp of Eastern Frontier Rifles in which 24 personnel were killed last month.
“If there was any failure, it was at the camp leadership level. If they ignored the intelligence report it was a serious mistake. It will be known only after the inquiry report is submitted,” Mr. Bhattacharjee told the assembly in reply to a question by Congress member Manas Bhunia.
Stating the incident took place at the camp in West Midnapore district because of lack of alertness, Mr. Bhattacharjee hoped that the probe panel comprising the Home Secretary, ADG (CID) and IG (Western range) would objectively investigate it and ascertain lapses.
To a supplementary question, he said intelligence reports were not sent to the Home secretary or DGP and were despatched to the camp, but what was its nature would be known only after the probe, he said.
The camp, he said, was being shifted to a new location at a forest beat office while locations of others were being reviewed. “If necessary some of them will be relocated.”
He said 170 people, besides 21 policemen were killed in Maoist attacks in the state between January 1, 2008 and January 31, this year.
On persistent queries why intelligence reports on Maoist activities were not sent to higher ups like the Home Secretary and DGP, the Chief Minister replied that these were received regularly at camps and police stations.
“Sending intelligence reports to the camp commandant is more important,” he said, disagreeing with Trinamool Congress Chief Whip Ashok Deb that the State government had failed to tackle Maoists.
He said that possibly five Maoists were killed when the EFR fired back during the attack.
Though the bodies were not found, police have got the information through their sources, he said.
Criticising the EFR Special IG Benoy Krishna Chakraborty who held a press conference after the attack with his face covered with a black cloth, he said, “It was unlike a police officer.”
He said police stations in Maoist-hit areas were being fortified with increase in the number of personnel and provision of sophisticated weapons.
On the Silda camp, he said it was in the midst of a locality and had been virtually turned into a thoroughfare for the people.
Referring to compensation to people and policemen killed in Maoist attacks, Mr. Bhattacharjee said it was given on the basis of a policy.
The family of a slain police personnel received compensation of Rs. 15 lakh from the Centre and the State, while Rs. one lakh was given to families of civilians killed by Maoists, he said.
Asked by CPI(M) member Srutinath Praharaj whether the State government was considering providing compensation to the families of CPI(M) leaders killed by Maoists, Mr. Bhattacharjee replied, “Though we have a moral duty, but so far no such decision has been taken by the government to provide compensation to political activists killed by the ultras.”