Thursday, February 04, 2010

Now, Bengal to raise anti-Naxal force

Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay Posted online: Friday , Feb 05, 2010 at 0046 hrs

Kolkata : Just four days ahead of the crucial meeting at Writers’ Buildings in Kolkata to chalk out a strategy to combat the Naxalite menace that will be chaired by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and attended by Chief Ministers of four states, the state government has decided to raise a special force, on the pattern of Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh and Special Task Force of Bihar, to fight the Maoists.

What prompted the government to raise a special force for the Naxalites was the paucity of trained personnel to fight the Maoists. “Once we have our own force, our dependence on the central paramilitary forces (CPMFs), for which we have been entreating the central government day in and day out, will be lessened,” said Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen.

While the initial cost of setting up the force, which is yet to get a name, will be around Rs 2 crore, the recurring cost of maintaining it will be Rs 25 crore, which will be borne by the state government. “We will ask for more money and central assistance at the February 9 meeting with Chidambaram,” Sen added.

To be trained by the CRPF, BSF and Army, the force consisting of fresh recruits will be used to fight the Naxalites in the three districts of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore affected by Left-wing extremism (LWE). “Their training will be basically in anti-insurgency operations and it will be very tough. They will be deployed only in the LWE areas,” Sen said.

The Home Department officials said the recruitment process will start soon and in a year or so the first contingent will be operational. To be set up at Salboni in West Midnapore, the force numbering about 600-700 people will be headed by an officer of IG level. “At present, there is no plan to induct women but we can do so in the future,” the Home Secretary added.

The state government had 17 companies of CPMFs in the LWE areas, of which six companies were taken away for election duty in Jharkhand. Though the elections are over, the forces are not back. “In principle they have agreed to send the six companies but the contingent is yet to arrive,” the official said.

The state government has asked for another 10 companies of CPMFs and the demand will be raised again at the February 9 meeting.

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