On the alert, always: on CRPF

COBRA Contingent (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), a specialised unit of the CRPF created to counter the Naxalite problem. File   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

The sad incident of an Assistant Commandant of the elite and highly trained CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) unit, Nikhil P. Bhalerao, dying in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in November 2020 has once again highlighted the need for us to enhance our intelligence system. The IED went off while an anti-Maoist operation was under way and also injured eight others.

Induction of CRPF

Following the deaths of 80 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Chhattisgarh due to land mine blasts in various incidents in 2008, the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, P. Chidambaram, ordered massive deployment of CRPF personnel in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. With the law and order situation showing improvement in the Kashmir Valley then, the CRPF battalions were pulled out of there and inducted into the LWE-affected States, with major deployment being concentrated in Chhattisgarh.

These newly inducted battalions underwent 12 weeks of induction training in Chhattisgarh so that they would be familiar with the terrain, the modus operandi of the Maoists, and the precautionary measures to be taken. They were also put through intensive firing practice. Soon the Border Security Force and the Indo Tibetan Border Police joined the CRPF and the State police forces in combating the Maoists.

Despite the training and precautionary measures adopted, security forces lost many personnel in 2009 and 2010, with 76 CRPF men killed in a terrible attack in Dantewada in April 2010. But the CRPF hit back with a vengeance and neutralised close to 200 Maoists between 2009 and 2011.

The CRPF slowly gained the upper hand and is now largely on the offensive. It has forced the Maoists to be on the run or surrender, which has brought down incidents of violence in LWE-affected States. As many as 55 Maoists were killed in operations in 2019, and 32 last year. The number of Maoists killed in the last decade has risen to 569. With the morale of the Maoists at its lowest ebb, 359 of them surrendered before the security forces in September 2018.

More needs to be done

However, as lives are still lost, the intelligence set-up in the LWE-affected States needs to be geared up not only to avert attacks on security forces but also so that they can be on the offensive against the extremists. Extensive use of Belgian Malinois dogs could help in timely detection of IEDs. Drones, too, are being used as force multipliers though they have not been very effective in thwarting IED blasts. Efforts are on to upgrade technical intelligence.

Much more needs to be done for LWE to be completely wiped out. CRPF personnel should stay in pucca buildings as temporary huts are not only prone to attacks but also take a toll on the men due to the vagaries of the weather, though there can be no denying that there has been considerable improvement in recent years.

There is the issue of funds too. Lately, against a projected demand of ₹114 crore for construction of accommodation, a meagre ₹33 crore was allotted. The responsibility of providing suitable accommodation to the Central Armed Police Force (CAPFs) battalions devolves on the States where they are deployed, though the CRPF has now undertaken this task on its own to hasten the work.

According to K. Govindan Nampoothiry, a Right to Information campaigner, the Ministry of Home Affairs has released ₹3,551.72 lakh to Chhattisgarh and another ₹2,857.89 lakh to Jharkhand for security-related expenditure for 2020-2021 among the LWE-affected States.

Even after certain districts are declared free of LWE activities, CAPFs will have to be stationed for some years until the States rely completely on their own Commando outfits like the Greyhounds and the Jharkhand Jaguars to prevent Maoist elements from raising their heads again.

M.P. Nathanael is Inspector General of Police (Retd), CRPF

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 1:42:17 AM |

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