Sunday, December 02, 2007

States slow to beef up police, give Naxals more play
3 Dec, 2007, 0046 hrs IST,Bharti Jain, TNN

NEW DELHI: The states’ casual attitude towards filling vacancies in police forces is pushing up levels of Naxal activity. This is borne by the fact that the four states worst-hit by Left-wing extremism — Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa — are also the ones with the largest shortfall in police personnel against the sanctioned manpower.

The four states bordering each other are conducting joint intelligence-based counter-operations to bust Naxal hideouts in the contiguous forests, but lag far behind when it comes to policing manpower, both at the officer and non-officer levels. The shortfall of officers/men in these states ranges between 1,452 and 5,185 officers, and 5,892 and 14,439 men.

Bihar, which has the lowest and most disturbing police to population ratio at 0.6 and a whopping 19,624 vacancies, is arguably the worst-performing of all the Naxal-hit states. Unfilled posts in the state police account for over 30% of the total sanctioned strength. Jharkhand comes second, with a 0.9 police-population ratio and a good 24% shortfall in police officers (1,452) and men (11,746).

Chhattisgarh and Orissa fare no better, although the former has of late been making an effort to make up for the shortfall with fresh recruitment. However, it has a shortfall of 1,749 officers and 5,892 men (21.54%). Orissa has vacancies translating into 19.93% of the total sanctioned strength (3,032 officers and 6,662 men).

For the other Naxal-hit states too, the existing police vacancies pose a problem. In Andhra Pradesh, they constitute 7.72% of the total sanctioned strength of 51,355 officers/men; in Madhya Pradesh, 5.99% of the 78,779 sanctioned strength, Maharashtra 7.36% and UP 9.30%. Interestingly, West Bengal is one of the poor performers, with 18.94% posts lying vacant.

As per statistics put out by the MHA in its last status report on Left- wing extremism, incidents during the first half of 2007 went up from 173 to 225 in Jharkhand during the corresponding period in 2006, from 63 to 80 in Bihar and from 24 to 45 in Orissa. In Chhattisgarh, though incidents fell from 374 to 343, police casualties shot up from 53 in the first six months of 2006 to 109 in the corresponding period of this year.

The Centre has reminded the poorly performing states to augment their police strength to the sanctioned levels. But even though Chhattisgarh and Bihar have moved in the right direction by restarting recruitment, Jharkhand lags , being slow to recruitment of officers for the past several years.

The low recruitment has also affected the intelligence operations, with special branches of the police in Naxal-hit states not only understaffed, but also bereft of competent officers and modern surveillance equipment. In May this year, the MHA, on its own, wrote to Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa governments on the need to spruce up their intelligence mechanisms by increasing manpower, inducting competent officers and procuring better surveillance equipment.

The states subsequently submitted plans for modernisation of their police, including a separate plan for strengthening the special branches, for which the Centre sanctioned funds in September. However, the states are yet to utilise the funds. Given that the counter-Naxal operations are not up to the mark due to lack of actionable intelligence, the Centre is keen that at least the intelligence modernisation plans are implemented.

Towards that end, the MHA has convened a meeting with representatives of the Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa government next month.

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