Remote locations aside, even Bastar’s highways, through which security forces have to move with election officials and EVMs, are insecure due to improper and thin deployment, says a CRPF communique to the union home ministry.
This assessment punctures government’s claims of adequate security being provided to poll parties.
It also questions the manner in which Chhattisgarh Police and the CRPF are planning troop deployment.
In terms of impact on the ground, an admission like this will have a bearing on the security architecture being erected in the state notwithstanding the Lok Sabha elections.
CRPF Director General, Dilip Trivedi, in his report, listed his concern about the inadequate forces available to protect the main roads leading to different parts of Bastar, a stronghold of Maoist rebels who have called for a boycott of the elections.
Trivedi said there is a need for a “re-look” at the deployment “grid”, indicating his displeasure over how well the forces were being used for the task at hand.
Raising “red flags”, Trivedi said the number of CRPF companies detailed for road protection duties along the Jagdalpur-Sukma-Bhejji route (197 km), Raipur-Jagdalpur route (285 km), Jagdalpur-Konta route (187 km) as well as Jagdalpur-Bhopalpatnam (214 km) route were inadequate.
This expanse, as mentioned by Trivedi, leaves all roads in the districts of the Bastar region, except Narayanpur, as being inadequately guarded.
He claimed in the communication that he raised this issue even on September 30, 2013. This correspondent has seen the communication.
Details of the specific number of companies along each of these routes are being withheld on account of security implications.
This comes in at a time when the authorities are grappling with the loss of at least 20 lives in the last one month on account of the Maoist ambushes.
This includes Wednesday’s twin attacks on CRPF men in the Kikler village in Bijapur and Chintagufa in Sukma in which three men lost their lives and five, including a deputy commandant, were injured.
Not surprisingly, when checked with police, CRPF’s admission met with an agreement.
Inspector General of Police, Bastar range, Arun Dev Gautam, said: “Our road network, as such, is very weak. Except for national highways, arterial roads are almost non-existent. All of this is making it easy for Maoists to plant IEDs.”
When asked about the alternatives available, he said: “Not everything can be sent by means of helicopter or carried on foot. No matter what the condition, vehicles will have to be used on roads. We have intensified de-mining and Road Opening Parties (ROPs) to deter the insurgents.”
On account of this and seeing the situation, he also termed the Lok Sabha elections “a much bigger challenge than the
Assembly elections of November 2013.”
However, other officers of Chhattisgarh Police privately questioned the “one-sided analysis” of CRPF.
On the other side, sources in the CRPF expressed anger at how Chhattisgarh Police was substituting CRPF for its men –
as against the augmentation of forces.
Ties between the two agencies soured in the wake of the blame game over March 11 attack in Sukma where police was quick to claim that intelligence was provided but was ignored. It was also alleged that Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was not followed.