Keeping the April 10 general election date in mind and reacting to an urgent plea, following last week’s ambush, by Chhattisgarh Police, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has agreed to shore up the additional troop support it was to provide. Not just that, even the Indian Air Force (IAF) will position 14 of its Mi17 helicopters instead of six it maintains at present.
“Yes, we have decided to send in atleast 50 companies (approximately 5000 fighting strength) over and above what we were additionally sending to Chhattisgarh. This was done on the request of the state police which came in last week,” said a source.
Chhattisgarh’s south Bastar alongwith other severely-affected districts will go to polls on April 10, thus making it difficult to concentrate forces in a particular region. “There was a reserve that had been created and it is from that reserve that additional forces will be sent,” he said. It was reliably learnt that other than the 50,000 paramilitary troops, stationed and operating from Chhattisgarh, Centre had decided earlier on pushing in 5000 more troops for elections. With this decision, however, that number stands doubled.
Even though the Centre has agreed on this, there is resentment over how effectively the police in Chhattisgarh will utilize the force. “Our role is to augment state police’s capabilities. But we’ve seen in the past that our men are being used to relieve policemen in Chhattisgarh which is not done at all,” a senior officer said.
The IAF which is conducting casualty evacuation and logistical operations in support of the local forces too will shore up its presence, keeping the election in mind. “Requirements are very high as apart from our regular work, polling parties also have to assisted. Thus we are more than doubling up our fleet,” said a senior officer. As a result, instead of six helicopters IAF maintained at Jagdalpur, Ranchi & Raipur, 14 will be positioned at bases beyond the three mentioned.
At present, troops have begun arriving in state capitals for their pre-induction training after which they will be deployed in remote and affected areas. Officials from the Election Commission of India, MHA and district administrations in Chhattisgarh are locked in consultation over troop deployment and fine-tuning of tactics.