ANDHRA PRADESH

Divergent views over Tirumala ghat road vigil

TIRUPATI. Oct. 10. Divergent views are emerging on the need to have an exclusive force for the surveillance of the two ghat roads between Tirupati and Tirumala. The idea of raising a separate force for an effective surveillance of the ghat roads is gaining ground in the aftermath of PW ultras choosing the ghat road as the venue for their brazen attempt on the Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu's life on October, 1 as he was motoring up the hill in a bullet-proof car.

A senior police official said it was high time the proposal was given a serious thought, especially in view of the fact that the two ghat roads were now no longer safe from the VVIP security point of view. He is also of the view that the their terrain and their thick fauna made it all the more imperative to go in for an exclusive force suitably equipped with arms, bomb detection gadgets, night vision goggles, etc, for constant combing of the entire Tirumala hill ranges, especially the thickets running close to the ghat roads to prevent any recurrence. He even preferred erection of watch towers at all vulnerable points as the terrain was uneven and full of valleys and hillocks.

He wondered what purpose would it serve if security was beefed up at the toll-gate alone leaving the ghat road open and unprotected all around and pointed out that it was this chink in the system that the naxalites who attacked Mr. Naidu's convoy exploited by penetrating the ghat road from the bypass road which ran closely along and could plant the Claymore mines without much difficulty a month or two before they were to be detonated.

Sources also pointed out that a similar proposal was made in respect of the Srisailam ghat road also as it was also being frequented by VVIPs of late causing serious concern to the security agencies.

But a non-police source did not quite agree with the idea of having a separate force for the Tirumala ghat road as it was doubtful whether naxalites would use the same venue for a similar operation again more so when it had been marked and identified by the security agencies as "vulnerable'' for insurgency activities. It would be like the traffic policemen getting a speed-breaker erected the moment an accident took place at the place as though accidents would occur only there again and no where else, a TTD source said.

It might be a futile exercise and a drain on the public exchequer, it added. Helipad at Tirumala: Meanwhile the TTD does not quite seem to like the proposal being mooted by security agencies to develop a helipad atop the Tirumala hill itself in view of the proven vulnerability of its two ghat roads now to terrorist attacks. In fact, the Home Minister, Devender Goud, also sounded positive to the proposal if it did not ruffle many feathers in the Agama pundit circles on the plea that it amounted the violation of the agama principles and temple usage and customs. In fact, the proposal was considered once in the past also but dropped subsequently for as it was found that it ran counter to the sasthras.

Let the Government send a proposal, then we will see, said a TTD official indicating that there were so many ifs and buts to the move in view of its sensitive nature.

Team in T.N.: Security sleuths probing the mine attack on the CM's convoy are now said to have fanned into Chennai and to some naxalite hot-beds in Tamil Nadu such as Dharmapuri district, etc, on a possible trail of the ultras who set-off the Claymnore mines on the ghat road. Cops belonging to the SIT other agencies are said to be engaged in a joint operation in Tamil Nadu to track down ultras as they were suspected to have sneaked into Chennai and Dharmapuri after their abortive bid on Mr. Naidu's life.

The SIT Officer, D.T. Naik, who was appointed to probe the attack is out somewhere on the mission is and is expected to return to Tirupati tomorrow.

Meanwhile the former DGP, Uttar Pradesh, Prakash Singh, heading the one-man commission appointed to probe the overall incident and the security failures, is yet to reach Tirupati though he has already reached Hyderabad. He is not expected here until Sunday.