Monday, July 20, 2009

New Army cantts in Naxal-hit areas being considered

Shishir Gupta

Posted: Monday , Jul 20, 2009 at 0428 hrs

Determined to take the Naxal menace head-on, the Government is actively considering setting up brigade headquarters or Army cantonments in interior areas of Naxal-affected states.

Government sources told The Indian Express that the new military cantonments would act as a deterrent and there are plans that these brigade-size formations would also train paramilitary forces before their induction in anti-Naxal operations. Situated inside Naxal-dominated areas, these cantonments would have an advance landing ground that could be used for troop deployment by air in the event of operations.

The Home Ministry has already discussed these plans with the Defence Ministry and the two are at present working on locations of new cantonments to be set up in Naxal-hit states. While Ranchi already has an Army division headquarters, there are plans to have brigade-level headquarters in Koraput (Orissa) and Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh).

While Defence Minister A K Antony is not in favour of armed forces getting involved in the Naxal fight, the Government is backing Home Minister P Chidambaram’s assessment that the Naxalite military strength had been underestimated by the Centre.

The idea behind new Army cantonments is to build future capacities and instil confidence among the local population. Following the Chhattisgarh ambush in which an SP was among 37 police personnel killed, the highest levels of the government even debated the use of armed helicopters and dropping special troops behind Naxal lines.

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