Saturday, June 13, 2009

Naxal attacks: Centre rushes high-level team to Jharkhand

Vinay Kumar

Home Ministry reorienting strategy

Naxals exploiting lack of coordination among government agencies and police

Police not following standard operating procedures

NEW DELHI: Concerned at the spate of deadly naxal attacks targeting police personnel, the Centre has rushed a high-level team to Jharkhand. Over the past two days 20 policemen have been killed in the State.

Union Home Ministry officials said the team comprising an Additional Secretary and a Joint Secretary would assess the ground situation.

Maoist cadres have attacked policemen in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh over the past two months, either blasting police vehicles by detonating landmines or ambushing police parties and shooting personnel dead.

100-day plan

As the new UPA government is chalking out a 100-day action plan for all ministries and departments, the Home Ministry is also reorienting and fine-tuning its response to naxal violence. Officials say the attempt is to elicit the response of the naxal-affected States to improve the ground-level policing and accelerate development plans.

A time-bound initiative in this effort could be included in the Ministry’s 100-day action plan, say informed sources.

Sitting ducks

Even as the Multiagency Centre (MAC) has been made operational and intelligence inputs are being shared among all States, the fact remains that naxals are exploiting the lack of intelligence and coordination among the government agencies and the police.

“Police teams end up as sitting ducks and Maoists are able to gather in large numbers, network themselves and attack the security personnel,” say the officials.

First task

The first and foremost task is to achieve perfect coordination among all arms of the State governments and the Centre, on the one hand, and the police forces and the intelligence gathering machinery, on the other.

The officials have indicated that development initiatives, taken at the level of the Union Cabinet Secretary in selected districts affected by naxal violence, are also being pushed vigorously and monitored regularly.

Knee-jerk reaction

The officials point out that State police teams often failed to adhere to the guidelines sent by the Centre and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that lay down the practice to be followed in search and raid operations or while acting on a tip-off.

Many a time, the police and Central forces left for engaging Maoists without adequate reinforcements and communication back-up.

In some instances, they have taken their vehicles on known routes and roads instead of going on foot, or taking with them road opening parties (ROPs) who will sanitise the route, say the officials.

Take advantage

Maoist cadres have also taken advantage of thick forests, particularly in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, and used the cover for getting away after the attack.

The sources say development measures, coupled with a flexible, highly mobile and disciplined police force that can quickly respond to real-time intelligence and other inputs, are the need of the hour.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, soon after assuming charge of the Ministry last month, said a concerted offensive would soon be launched against the naxalites.

Twin-pronged strategy

Mr. Chidambaram said the two-pronged strategy of combining police action with stepped-up development in the naxal-affected districts would be taken up.

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