Sunday, September 24, 2006

CRPF goes cycling in Naxal territory

CRPF goes cycling in Naxal territory

NEW DELHI: With armoured vehicles becoming sitting ducks for landmine attacks, Central Reserve Police Force personnel will now be seen patrolling on cycles and motorbikes in Naxalite-infested jungles and hamlets in states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The paramilitary force, battling left wing insurgency in several states, has directed its company commanders to concentrate on patrolling on foot and with two-wheelers, a change of tactics in tune with the ground situation.

"Most roads in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are heavily mined. Two-wheelers can go deep into jungles and boost area domination. The personnel can even leave their vehicles behind if the need arises," an official said.

Heavy vehicles are easily targeted by the Maoist rebels and attacks on them usually inflict huge loss of life and property, a situation the force now wants to prevent.

The CRPF lost 29 personnel-- 13 in Jharkhand and six in Chhattisgarh -- so far this year in attacks by Maoists, compared to one death during the same period last year.

There were at least 25 landmine and IED blasts in Chhattisgarh this year alone.

The force had experimented with using two-wheelers for patrolling United Liberation Front of Asom-dominated areas of Lower Assam in 2001 and the tactic proved very successful, officers familiar with anti-insurgency operations said.

The introduction of two-wheelers, interestingly, is part of a modernisation drive under way in the two-lakh strong force, deployed in the northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and Naxal-affected states.

According to official figures, landmines are the second most used mode of attack by Naxalites after ambushes.

The CRPF has purchased 300 motorbikes and hundreds of cycles, besides 6,000 lightweight bullet-proof vests for operations in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand on the basis of requirements projected by company commanders.

It has decided to arm formations with GPS-enabled satellite phones and to use deep search mine detectors during combing operations. The force still uses Morse code for communication.

The new steps to counter the rebels were taken after a rise in Naxalite attacks and the recovery of huge quantities of IEDs and landmines in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Significantly, attacks on CRPF posts and pickets have come down in the first eight months of this year.

As part of the modernisation and expansion plans, the force is recruiting 30,000 men, including around 5,000 from Jammu and Kashmir, for anti-insurgency operations across the country.

Of the 25,000 new recruits from across the country, 40 per cent will be drawn from disturbed districts as part of the government's efforts to provide jobs to unemployed youths in such areas to deter them from taking to extremist activities.

"Recruitment of youth from disturbed areas will help develop a sense of loyalty among the people there, besides raising their level of confidence in the system," an official overseeing the process said.


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