Thursday, April 08, 2010

On Naxal trail, they haven't fired in a year

Sanjay Ojha, TNN, Apr 9, 2010, 03.24am IST

RANCHI: It's war. And every officer and constable of Jharkhand police deployed in Maoist-hit areas is well prepared for it. Right? Wrong. In the last three years, most of them have not fired a weapon at a paper target — far less a Maoist bent on killing them.

Brandishing AK-47s and Insas rifles, they are good at inspiring awe among children and villagers, but how are they in combat? "In a crunch situation, I don't know how my men will react or even if they fire, whether they will make the bullets count," admitted an inspector.

A random check by TOI on firearms training and practice by policemen in Jharkhand revealed that most constables and junior officers have not used their weapons even once in the last year. Three years in case of senior IPS officers.

Such is the situation in a war zone, although the police manual makes it mandatory for every policeman, from the constable to DGP, to go for shooting practice at least once a year and fire 30 rounds. TOI spoke to 15 constables, an equal number of sub-inspectors, two SPs and a DIG on Thursday. They all admitted that they have not fired a single bullet in a long time. "I have not visited the shooting range in the last one-and-a-half years," said a sub-inspector posted in Maoist-hit Bundu block.

Asked how he managed to escape the mandatory shooting practice, the SI blamed the district's SSP. "It is the responsibility of the SSP or the SP to fix shooting schedule for officers and constables. Since our SSP has not asked us we did not go for it," he said.

"In the last two years I have never fired from my AK-47. If I am caught in an encounter and the Maoists are no more than 10-15 meters away, I am sure I would still miss," says a constable deployed in anti-Maoist operations.

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