Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Private firms to supply copters for war against Red terror

Private firms to supply copters for war against Red terror
Rajeev Bhattacharyya

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 24: In a development that could contribute significantly to the war against Left-wing extremism, the Centre has clinched a deal with a private company for the supply of helicopters to security forces in Naxal-infested states.

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The Home Ministry has signed an agreement with M/s Vertex Ltd of Hyderabad for the supply of two helicopters on lease for non-military purposes to security forces deployed in Naxalite-affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The CRPF has already used it on two occasions during the last couple of months in Chhattisgarh to air-drop personnel in remote areas for specific operations.

The Andhra government will be the nodal agency coordinating use of the helicopters among different states. According to sources, an expense of around Rs 8 crore per annum would be borne by the Home Ministry from security related expenditure (SRE).

The decision to rope in private players reflects the government concern to gain an upperhand in the situation that reveals a rising trend of casualties. Till August this year, 115 security personnel and 401 civilians were killed by Naxalites compared to 94 and 364 during the previous year.

The development comes close on the heels of private companies refusing to enter into the deal as they were expressing concern over the safety of the helicopters given the firepower of the millitants. The rockets recovered recently in Andhra Pradesh had the potential to inflict damage upto a distance of 400 metres.

The security forces are concerned since a part of this consignment of 850 odd rockets seized at Prakasam and Mehboobnagar have already fallen into the Naxalites’ hands, CRPF director general JK Sinha told reporters today. “They only have to fill the rockets with explosives and use them against security forces,” he said, adding that precautionary measures have been taken.

Another important development, said officials, was the launching of operations by the CRPF on its own against millitants in Chhattisgarh. Earlier, the role of the central police forces was mainly to supplement the efforts of the state police but the change was the fallout of a proposal mooted by security adviser to the state government KPS Gill that was supported by the Home Ministry.

“The G Branch for intelligence that was inaugurated five months ago for the CRPF has started giving results. Enough information is pouring in on the Naxalites that is supplemented by the state police,” a senior official said.

Brushing aside the controversy on the Salwa Judum movement in Chhattisgarh, Sinha said it was a “peoples’ movement” that needed to be supported. Asked about the possibility of infiltration by the ISI into the paramilitary organisation, he added that jawans did not have access to sensitive information and that an efficient surveillance system was in place to monitor the activities of senior officers.

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