Monday, July 20, 2009

Pit senior cops against Naxals: MHA

Vishwa Mohan, TNN 21 July 2009, 03:21am IST

NEW DELHI: Chhattisgarh IPS officer Vinod Kumar Choubey, killed in the naxal attack last week, was among the handful of senior cops who prefer leading from the front during operations. Most of the times, it is the lower-ranking cops and paramilitary personnel who die in the battle against Red Ultras with the seniors only making the operational plans.

With facts revealing the killing of over 1,000 lower-ranking security personnel in the past five years, the Union home ministry recently wrote to states asking them to depute senior cops (inspector and above) to lead the operations against naxals.

Coincidently, the ministry's stern message came much before the Orissa Havildar and Constable Federation raised the issue and demanded a similar commitment from the senior cops in the war against Maoists. In a rare expression of discontent in the wake of the killing of sub-inspector Ajit Bardhan by naxals in Sundargarh district, the Federation demanded that senior police officers lead the jawans during operation rather than sit in "AC chambers in Bhubaneswar".

Though home ministry officials frowned upon such an open expression of discontent by a disciplined force, they fully agreed with what the Federation reportedly said.

On the eve of the Maoists' call for bandh in five states in June, the home ministry while alerting states had asked them to depute senior cops for operations as part of the Standard Operationg Procedures (SOPs).

"Choubey possibly heeded to such an advice, but it is not the case with other senior cops in the most cases. The idea is to let the officers, who make plan, know the ground situation. If they will have to lead, they would be more careful about the entire operation instead of leaving jawans as sitting ducks in the field," said a senior home ministry official.

The ministry's statistics reveal that the number of casualties among security personnel has consistently been increasing — from 153 in 2005 to 230 in 2009 (till date). While 157 personnel were killed in 2006, 236 cops lost their lives in 2007 and 231 in 2008.

Obviously, the figure for Orissa of cops killed in naxal violence is no less. A total of 73, mostly lower-ranking cops, were killed in a single year in 2008 as compared to seven in three years — 2005-07.

Perhaps, the sharp increase in casualties might have been behind the Federation president, Sawarmal Sharma, demanding that the state chief minister order senior officials to lead the forces in combat operations instead of giving directions from their offices.

"We don't want to be sitting ducks anymore. Every time a Maoist attack occurs, a lowly policeman dies. This will not be tolerated anymore," Sharma said.

Even the CRPF personnel deployed in naxal-affected states have a similar grouse against the state police. Taking up the concerns of jawans, the paramilitary force — which has deployed over 37,000 of its personnel in Red Zones — too recently asked the state police to cooperate at the ground level by pitching in their senior cops for the job.

CRPF has even asked its field units to undertake an operation only when accompanied by a matching number of state police cops led by senior officers. The units have also been asked not to venture out beyond the known terrain in naxal-infested regions unless they are led by state cops.

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