Friday, October 14, 2005

Bomb squad team cover blown

JOY SENGUPTA

Ranchi, Oct. 14: The state police department is all set to make the existing bomb squad more effective.

There is virtually no work assigned to the “squad”, comprising 70 trained police personnel, who have been trained by the state government at a cost of Rs 70 lakh. But none of the “bomb experts”, as they are known, have been given any assignments in the Naxalite-hit state to defuse a single bomb during the past five years.

Sources in the state police headquarters said the department is contemplating to send its personnel for a refresher course before forming a “central team”, which would be sent to various Naxalite-affected districts on specific assignments.

“Sometimes, policemen are killed during extremist attacks as they do not have the expertise to defuse a bomb. A land pressure bomb was used in the last Saturday’s blast in Chatra. Our men, who were trained long back, know how to defuse such a bomb, but they were not called in time,” said a senior police officer.

According to other senior police officers, it is high time that the men sitting idle be given some business. The officers themselves accept the fact that the experts have just not been used properly by the senior officers in the department.

Sources said the existing team does not have the latest equipment to tackle sophisticated bombs.

A senior officer, on condition of anonymity, said: “Yes, it is a fact that our bomb squad is not working as in other states. The ones who have got bomb squad training are rather being sent for general duty. Believe me, they could even forget techniques of defusing a bomb.”

“At present there are 70 policemen, who were sent to either Meru (Hazaribagh) or the National Security Guard base in Gurgaon. During the one-year training the state government has spent Rs 1 lakh on each of them,” added the officer.

Another senior officer said the Chatra ambush was an eye-opener to revamp the state police force.

“Like any other state, Jharkhand will also have a full-fledged and fully-equipped bomb squad now. Though we are not planning to train any more men at present, the existing personnel, who have already received the training, will be sent to a refresher course and then a central team would be formed,” the officer said.

“This team, stationed at headquarters, will have all the equipment needed for defusing a bomb. The fact has to be accepted that we are also short in terms of equipment, which are quite costly. (But) the department will soon ensure that the central squad gets these,” added the officer.

According to sources, every bomb squad has got bomb suits, each costing Rs 7 lakh, bomb box costing Rs 60 to 70 lakh and a remote control costing Rs 1.5 crore.

“The state police does not even have one of these important equipment,” said officers in the department.

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