Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's not safe even in an anti-landmine vehicle

Sanjay Ojha, TNN 29 November 2009, 05:14am

RANCHI: What happens to an anti-landmine vehicle designed to protect personnel against Improvised Explosive Devices (up to 14 kg of TNT) hit by twice or more that amount? The vehicle is blown to smithereens, taking the personnel along with it, never mind if they wore helmets and fastened seat belts.

Recent landmine explosions in Jharkhand tell the story. In the past five months, three landmine blasts on anti-landmine vehicles have killed 14 security personnel.

Police officers serving in Maoist areas know all too well the safety' of these vehicles. "My knowledge of safety standards of these mine protection vehicles says that no one is safe' in these armoured' vans even after wearing helmets and fastening seat belts," says a senior IPS officer, posted in one of the state's most troubled zones.

Talking about the safety standards of these armoured vehicles, the officer adds: "The mine protection vehicles are tested by the manufacturers to withstand around 15 kg of explosives. The landmines used by the Maoists always contain explosives more than 25 to 30 kg. Under the circumstances, no one can guarantee the safety of the personnel sitting inside."

So, after every landmine blast on an anti-landmine vehicle in which security personnel are killed, the state's common refrain that security personnel did not follow safety guidelines doesn't tell the actual story, he points out.

Gumla superintendent of police N K Singh says it is difficult to give the exact amount of explosives used in landmine blasts. On the November 22 attack that claimed three security personnel in a blast on an anti-landmine vehicle, he says: "The amount of explosives must have been around 25 kg."

Way more than minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on July 29, 2009: "Anti-landmine vehicles are usually used for protection of personnel against Improvised Explosive Devices (up to 14 kg of TNT)."

Another officer who has served in Maoist-infested districts is of a similar opinion. He says that the impact of a landmine blast is so high that these anti-landmine vehicles get badly damaged and policemen or paramilitary personnel sitting inside die because of head or spinal injuries.

The officer well-versed in Maoist terrains and their designs points out that in all the three landmine blasts on armoured vehicles beginning with Bokaro on June 13, East Singhbhum on November 19 and Gumla on November 22, the policemen died not because of splinter or bullet injuries. They died because of head hemorrhage and spinal injuries as the vehicles got badly damaged. "The impact of the blast is beyond the protection of a helmet and seat belt," the officer adds.

He says that the welding joints on the vehicle are also vulnerable to bullets. "There is every possibility of the joints getting damaged and bullets passing through the body. Luckily, no one has died due to bullet injury because of weak joints," he says.

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