Monday, June 22, 2009

Cobra headquarters in Barhi, Khunti

- Elite commandos to man Naxalite hotbeds in state by December-end
AMIT GUPTA

Ranchi, June 21: The home department has, finally, made room for the elite Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra).

Last August, the Centre had given the nod to raise a 10,000-strong special force under the command and control of the CRPF to counter Naxalites primarily in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and other rebel-hit states.

The two battalions sanctioned for the state will be headquartered in Barhi, Hazaribagh, and near Sapphire International School on the Ranchi-Khunti border. The home department has sanctioned 101.50 acres in Barhi block and 85 acres in Khunti district.

Hazaribagh deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey said the land along NH-33 had been lying barren and was, thus, allotted for housing the force. It will also use the Barhi sub-divisional office.

“The land in question was acquired in the Nineties for industrial purposes. But nothing positive moved on that front. The total barren area is about 575 acres. We are using 101.5 acres while the rest can be used for industrial purposes later,” he said.

Khunti deputy commissioner Puja Singhal Purwar said the 85-acre stretch along Ranchi-Khunti road was ahead of Sapphire International School and opposite to the deer park.

State home secretary J.B. Tubid said the Cobra would man the Naxalite strongholds of Hazaribagh, Giridih, Koderma, Chatra, Dhanbad, Bokaro, Latehar and Palamau by December 2009. “The headquarters need to be ready as soon as possible.”

Headquartered in the national capital, five of the 10 battalions of Cobra are being deployed in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Two battalions of more than 1,000 personnel each have already undergone training at the Jungle Warfare Training School in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and in Silchar, Assam. Equipped with 19 different assault weapons and intelligence techniques, they are waiting for their headquarters to get ready.

Over 70 districts in the country are grappling with Left-wing extremism, which has been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a “virus” and the “biggest internal security threat”.

Around 40 Cobra commandos are currently deployed in Lalgarh, Bengal, to counter the CPI(Maoist) offensive.

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