Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Naxal-hit paramilitary plans shopping spree for battle gear

Gyan Varma / DNA

New Delhi: Faced with unprecedented casualties in Maoist violence in the heart of India, central paramilitary forces are planning a massive shopping spree for lighter bulletproof jackets and vehicles that can withstand mine blasts. Most casualties the forces suffered in recent times were due to mine blasts and small-arm fire.

Senior officers said they were planning to purchase a large quantity of landmine-proof vehicles and lighter bulletproof jackets, besides new-generation helmets.

The proposal, sources said, was to buy at least 80 anti-landmine vehicles. Presently, the forces have 19 anti-landmine vehicles, all deployed in Kashmir, the northeast and Maoistaffected states. The idea is to make it "easier for troops to hunt down Maoists in jungles without the fear of underground explosives", a senior home ministry official.

The forces are also planning to buy 10,000 bulletproof jackets and 10,000 bulletproof helmets. "Bulletproof jackets and helmets are extremely important because they give a sense of security to our men facing hardened terrorists and 10,000 armed Maoists who have started using sophisticated weapons," the officer said.

As the paramilitary forces get sucked deep into the war on Maoists, their budget has jumped markedly from a little over Rs12,000 crore this year to Rs18,000 crore. The 50% hike would help them speed up gear procurement.

However, sources in the home ministry said the purchase won't be easy.

"The ordnance factories (in Medak and Jabalpur) are burdened and may not be able to provide the vehicles fast and we don't have time to delay operations," the officer said. As such, sources said, the government was, for the first time, mulling importing the equipment "to avoid delay," the officer said.

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