Thursday, July 16, 2009

Security tizzy after gizmo haul

SSP Praveen Kumar with the seized communication devices. Pix: Manik Bose
Ranchi, July 15: The largest haul of wireless gadgets in recent times from the cargo office of an airline in the capital yesterday has set off alarm bells in the state’s security circles.

Senior police officers today said that they were trying to locate the origin of the consignment and would request the Centre to crack down on illegal markets of sophisticated communication devices flourishing in several big cities, particularly Delhi.

About 60 mobile handsets, 60 wireless radio sets, 60 chargers, 54 battery sets, 10 transistors, two world band receivers, six micro cassette recorders, compact antennae and some bulletproof jackets were part of the consignment that was sent from New Delhi to Ranchi yesterday.

Two CPI(Maoist) sympathisers — Naresh Sharma of Bulandsahar, UP, and Praveen Sharma of Delhi — were arrested. While Naresh was picked up from a rented house in Daltonganj, Praveen was arrested from Vijay Marg by the Delhi police.

State police spokesperson S.N. Pradhan said that the consignment had proved that the Maoists were trying to adapt to latest technologies in its war against the state. “And this is alarming. Wireless gadgets will make them almost invincible and patrol teams all the more vulnerable inside dense forests,” he said, adding that a formal request would be sent to the Union home ministry for organised raids on illegal wireless gadget markets.

He said the recovered gadgets could well connect groups of rebels operating within a 5-10km radius inside the jungle. They will get every bit of information about the movement of forces through low-power transmitters.

“Once the security personnel enter the forest, they will be within attack range. But they will not be able to intercept Maoist conversation because the frequency of low-power sets will not match with that of the police.”

Pradhan said they were trying to find out from where the communication devices were purchased. He did not rule out the possibility of many such consignments having reached the rebels in the recent past.

Maoists have been using low-power communication sets of Chinese make since the past two decades, but adapting to latest technologies is a marked change in their strategy, said a special branch officer.

As far as their connection with building contractors is concerned, it is an established fact that they pay levy out of fear and compulsion. But this is probably the first case where a contractor’s men were involved in supplying communication gadgets to rebels, he said. Sekhar Construction, whose manager is Naresh, is a reputable firm that has bagged projects worth Rs 50 crore from the road construction and water resource departments.

The construction firm is currently executing the Daltonganj-Panki road project that falls under state highways. Police are apprehending that landmines may have been laid in the stretch during the construction phase itself.

Sources said Naxalism has been flourishing in the Ghatshila-Baharagora region under the influence of the multi-crore Subernarekha Multipurpose Project (SMP), a scheme to aid irrigation in Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal.

Over Rs 2,000 crore has been spent in the past three decades to execute the ambitious plan and grapevines have it that the rebels extorted a good percentage of the amount as levy while the project remains far from complete.

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