Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stricter air vigil for phase two

AMIT GUPTA
Ranchi, April 20: After Naxalite attacks in the first phase of Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand, the police have now decided to rely on aerial deployment and evacuation of polling personnel and security forces during the second and last phase.

The state will get four Indian Air Force choppers and one from the Border Security Force. Moreover, static forces will man the booths while patrolling parties will keep a tab on certain areas.

Emphasis will also be laid on spreading forces across polling stations of a particular constituency. During the first phase of the polls on April 16, it was observed that some places had more forces on duty while several others were left uncovered.

Latehar district administration sources confided that a required number of forces from few districts, including East Singhbhum, were not sent, which left many booths unmanned.

“On April 23, when eight Lok Sabha seats will go to the polls, we have decided not to confine central paramilitary forces to cluster points or patrolling activities but send them to strategic locations, including the booths. If required, we will air-drop the forces at the booths,” a senior police official, requesting anonymity, said.

A police officer said the extremist threat was not as much in the second phase of the polls as compared to the earlier round.

While Rajmahal, Dumka and Godda in Santhal Pargana are considered “safe”, real problems may arise in Naxalite strongholds of Giridih and Singhbhum Lok Sabha seats. Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad are also “less vulnerable”. Jharkhand registered the maximum number of casualties in the security forces during the first phase.

Deputy commissioner-cum-returning officer of Palamau Amitabh Kaushal told The Telegraph that paramilitary personnel had refused to go in fewer numbers to certain booths.

“The personnel insisted on going if a minimum number was deputed. We have reported the matter to the chief electoral office,” he said.

There was also a proposal that polls in Chatra and Palamau constituencies be held in two separate phases so that deployment of adequate number of forces in both Naxalite-affected districts was ensured.

A deputy commissioner-cum-returning officer said it was sheer mismanagement on the part of the poll panel.

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