Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gadchiroli to be Naxal-free in a year: Pillai

Pranab Dhal Samanta Posted online: Sunday , Feb 14, 2010 at 0409 hrs

New Delhi : The silent, yet unprecedented, Naxal offensive that started just over a month ago from the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border has made considerable progress with officials claiming for the first time that Gadchiroli — the worst affected district in Maharashtra — will be free of Maoist elements within a year.
“Once the full complement of forces come, we should be able to clear Gadchiroli of all Naxal elements within one year,” Home Secretary G K Pillai told The Sunday Express when asked about the state of operations.

Buoyed by the success, the government is now all set to replicate the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra joint operation model with Orissa after the state government came on board to conduct “seamless operations” across state borders.

As planned, five BSF battalions — about 5,000 personnel — will be moving to Malkangiri district and adjoining areas in Orissa to counter Naxals who are desperately seeking a safe haven following the operations in Chhattisgarh. The inter-state border will be sealed with checkpoints just as it is being done on the Maharashtra side, added sources.

Such is the pace of the operations that seven raids have been carried out in Chhattisgarh alone in the last 48 hours and more are happening. Sources said several lower rung leaders among the Maoists have either been apprehended or killed in the past one month. In fact, reports from the field to the Home Ministry are that locals have begun to cooperate with the forces and are volunteering to provide information.

Many of these operations were being carried out largely with the help of local intelligence, which has come as a big advantage for the forces deployed in the area. In Gadchiroli, the state government has agreed to recruit local tribes into the police. Some 3,000 such personnel will be inducted into the district soon, a move which the government feels will ensure that the area gets rid of Maoists quickly.

What seems to be working well for the anti-Naxal task force is the grid pattern of deployment which the Army follows in counter-insurgency areas, and has particularly worked effectively in the Northeast and Kashmir. This ensures that every area is optimally covered by at least a battalion. Also, there is an operating base, which is usually dynamic in location, and quick reaction teams are in place for carrying out raids on specific intelligence.

The entire operational area, for instance, in Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli has been divided into grids identified by recognisable geographical features. And to ensure better coordination, each paramilitary force is handed over an area or a district. So if the CRPF is deployed on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border, the BSF forces are being deployed on the Orissa side.

All these forces work with the state police forces and are operationally under the State DGPs, but to ensure better coordination, the anti-Naxal task force head, Vijay Raman, is stationed in Raipur. His primary job is to facilitate seamless operation and create this grid along with the state police so that Naxals are unable to take refuge in an adjoining state. At present, there are some 58,000 paramilitary personnel under deployment. And each deployment is done after the training capsule in Army’s jungle warfare school.

There have been concerns, however, over Jharkhand after the Shibu Soren government took over with sources pointing out that cooperation could have been better. At the same time, the state government officials have not reversed their stand officially in the coordination meetings and continue to assure full cooperation.

Now that a workable model is in place, going by the success in Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli, sources said, efforts are on to replicate it soon in other affected states so that large chunks of areas can be cleared permanently.

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