Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No toilets at camps, cops are easy target in Naxal hotbed

Joseph John Posted online: Wednesday, Jul 15, 2009 at 0031 hrs

Raipur : The lack of something as basic as toilets at many police base camps located in Naxalite-affected areas in Chhattisgarh are making security personnel vulnerable to attacks from Maoist rebels. It is exactly what happened at remote Madanwada which later triggered a major incident resulting in the death of 30 securitymen, including an SP, in Rajnandgaon district on Sunday.

And this happens in a state where the panchayat Act stipulates that all elected members must construct flush toilets in their homes within a year of their election. Not long ago, a number of elected “panchs” of gram panchayats were removed from their posts for not having proper toilet facilities at their homes. This clearly indicates the ‘uneven priorities’ of the state government towards different areas, particularly with regard to providing basic infrastructure to security personnel fighting the Maoists in the tribal belt.

In the Naxal hotbed of Bastar as well as in other areas, most of the camps are temporary, with just barbed wire fencing serving as security. Bathroom and toilet facilities are a far cry.

Set up just a few months back, things were not different at the Madanwada camp located at an isolated forest area close to the border with Maharashtra. “During rains, one cannot reach there even on a bicycle and there is no habitation over a vast area surrounding the police outpost there,” says Manish Nirmalkar, a local journalist.

The outpost and base camp were established at Madanwada apparently in a hurry and were housed in temporary shelters made of tin sheets, reportedly donated by a major industrial unit in Bhilai on the personal request of senior police officials. There were no toilets, of course. This explains why the two constable became sitting ducks for Naxalites on Sunday morning as they were attending nature’s call out in the open. The Maoist rebels later ambushed the security team led by Rajnandgaon SP Vinod Kumar Choubey who rushed to the area after hearing about the two deaths.

Such incidents are common in tribal Bastar where the Maoists target individual security personnel early in the morning either when he is attending to nature’s call or taking bath in a stream.

Two constables of the Kurusnar camp in Bijapur district were gunned down by the rebels while they were bathing in a stream. Two constables were killed earlier in Narayanpur district under similar circumstances a few months ago.

“Security personnel are always being alerted on the possibility of such isolated early morning attacks. In camps where toilets are inadequate, security personnel make use of the fields in the surrounding areas,” claimed

a police official, who was earlier posted in Bastar. “Basic infrastructure is a problem in the remote tribal areas. But there are several other constraints too in addressing these issues,” he said.

While non-availability of toilets in the police camps is exposing security personnel to danger, the state government on the other hand is running a campaign for the past few years to motivate the people to have flush latrines at their homes. It is compulsory for the people’s representatives of panchayat bodies to adopt safer and hygienic practices for disposal of human waste, failing which they are liable to be removed from their posts. This provision is stipulated in Section 36 of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Act.

Once a ‘Panch’ or ‘Sarpanch’ is expelled under this provision, the state government recommends to the state Election Commission to conduct by-election to fill up the vacant post.

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