Monday, July 06, 2009

Tips to tackle rebel mine trap

OUR CORRESPONDENT
Jamshedpur, July 5: The men in uniform will learn by heart lessons in road safety, albeit of a different kind.
The state home department has decided to launch special “sensitisation” programmes from next week to arm policemen — from constables to senior officers — with foolproof tactics on how to dodge rebel-planted landmines on unmetalled roads.

Serpentine mud tracks vanishing into the deep woods of Singhbhum-Kolhan region, bordering the guerrilla dens of Bengal and Orissa, are virtual nightmares for policemen on patrol duty in the rebel stronghold. While an allegedly laggard road construction department is yet to convert the dirt tracks into metalled roads, the policemen continue to be sitting ducks for mine-armed Maoists.

Over 70 policemen have been killed in landmine blasts in the twin districts of Singhbhum under Kolhan police range since 2002. To ensure that the men who put their lives at risk for others are equipped with prudence to save themselves, superintendents of police and their deputies will conduct workshops at district headquarters to tip policemen on which roads to avoid and how to detect landmines and defuse them.

DIG, Kolhan, M.K. Mishra said though similar programmes had been held earlier, this was the first time that even constables would participate. Moreover, the drive would be on a larger scale than ever before, he added.

Mishra pointed out that chances of a landmine blast could be minimised if mud tracks in strategically important areas were converted into metalled roads. “We sent a number of proposals, but there hasn’t been any progress.”

He said the police were even ready to extend “full support” to any agency or contractor to get the work done, but “despite so much initiative and interest” there was “no positive sign” from the road construction department.

The DIG refused to reveal the areas where work was stuck in a limbo, but made it clear that the police department was paying a heavy price for “such bottlenecks”.

Secretary of road construction department N.N. Sinha said most roads under the PWD were metalled. Those that are not are under the Rural Engineering Organisation (REO). “Construction work by the REO is done under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Projects under this central scheme gets delayed due to want of approval on time.”

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