Monday, November 23, 2009

UAVs may be used to defang Maoists

TNN 23 November 2009, 06:45am IST

HYDERABAD: To nullify the Maoist challenge in Chhattisgarh-Khammam and Andhra-Orissa border regions, the security forces are set to launch precision attacks with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) even as 7,000 specially trained troops in jungle warfare are being roped in to help out the central forces deployed for Operation Green Hunt at Abujmad.

Sources said the government’s new plan to counter Maoists is aimed at effective coordination among the naxal-hit states. The specially trained troops would not only match the Maoists’ counter-offensive tactical campaign but would also help the respective state police forces in the operation.

Senior police officials said the UAVs would help the forces detect Maoist hideouts in the hilly terrains and dense forests.

“Since Maoists keep changing their bases and are constantly moving, deployment of UAVs will be of great help to the security forces to track them,” a security expert said. The data gathered on the UAVs with the help of in-built cameras and video links could be shared among the forces engaged in the anti-naxal operations, he observed.

A senior IPS officer involved in anti-naxal operations said the full-fledged operation could be taken up from three different regions considered as tri-junctions.

The junctions identified for the offensive are Andhra Pradesh-Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh, Orissa-Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh and West Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa.

But the authorities are a bit worried over the safety of lakhs of people, especially tribals, who would be caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and security forces as and when the full-scale battle is launched. According to an official, around 25 lakh people would be directly affected.

“Maoists have a free run in nearly 40,000 square km area in the worst-affected states and the security
forces cannot afford to put the lives of lakhs of people in jeopardy,”
an officer serving in Khammam border said.

Experts observed that despite the urgency shown by Union home minister P Chidam baram to flush out naxals from the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, the Maoist menace would not end overnight.

“The operation is extremely difficult as we cannot underestimate the Maoist prowess in guerrilla warfare. The whole exercise could extend up to a period of 18 to 36 months,” an officer reasoned.

It may be recalled that nearly 2,800 people have been killed in the last three years in Maoist-related violence in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

“Though AP is safe, the chances of surprise ambushes by Maoists to show their presence cannot be ruled out,” the officials added.

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