Category Archives: ITBP

To win against Maoists, repair the Home Ministry first. My piece.

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It was March of 2014 when in the jungles surrounding Koraput in Odisha, a police team spent a night in hiding, ready to attack Maoists who they knew were to cross a stream. By the morning, the team left empty-handed. “Later we realised the rebels did come short of crossing that stream when they spotted our footwear marks on the soil and quietly changed their path,” said the officer.

From field-level tactics to post-incident evaluation to carrying out studies on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), impairing drones and helicopters, the Maoists, anyone with any experience of the trade will tell you, make an honest attempt of their job.

Thus, for India’s home minister Rajnath Singh to accuse them of “cold-blooded murder” is a case of being poorly informed.

Nevertheless, the establishment has been jolted with the loss of 25 more personnel. Only last month, in the same state, the same district, the same force was routed by the same adversary. The guerrillas then killed 12. About 60 security personnel have been killed by the Maoists within the four months of this year.

Nothing hereon will matter more than the rectification at the top, inside the North Block where the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is expected to hammer into shape the contours of this fight. Yet its absurdities have gone unchallenged and unrepaired:

1. In a Parliamentary Committee report tabled on March 15, the Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi has been quoted as saying the government had no money to provide mine resistant vehicles to protect troops from Maoist mines. The committee was “constrained to observe that lack of financial resources is becoming a reason for casualty of valuable lives being lost in the battle against Left Wing Extremism”.

2. To deal with Maoist mines, the MHA told the Parliament it is ensuring the availability of more than one mine proof vehicle (MPV) per battalion. But it never told that its own guidelines (authorisation) hold that every battalion must hold between seven to ten MPVs.

3. The MHA also indirectly made the Jabalpur-based Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) look responsible for not producing enough MPVs. Why did the MHA not float a global tender if the OFB was slow? Minister of State in-charge of the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) desk, Hansraj Ahir said his government hadn’t given the idea a thought yet.

4. On April 12, replying to a host of Members of Parliament (MPs), Ahir patted himself on the back for year on year reduction of casualties of troops as if this conflict was about numbers alone. In the same deliberation, Ahir when asked about the modernised combat support and technology his government had brought to the troops said the troops now had helicopters and drones!

5. The efficacy/availability of drones comes under doubt when it hasn’t helped the CRPF pick any signs of back-to-back, massive ambushes which the Maoists laid barely 2km outside its camps! It also points to a breakdown of communication with the local community – the very people the CRPF is there to normalise the situation for.

6. Problem of poor leadership by the MHA compounds when it comes to CRPF, a force with lethal disconnect between the top and the bottom. That the MHA has kept the CRPF headless for nearly two months says so much.

7. Unfortunately the MHA and the CRPF have made a habit out of ducking from questions. Having covered the issue, I know the approach has the green signal from powerful quarters

8. With little to show in terms of deftly handling the Kashmir situation, the MHA finds itself in a corner. It simply does not have the troops it needs to strengthen its presence in the LWE states where the deployment is as such thin.

While the top fumbles with hardly any accountability, those on ground will pay with their lives for one wrong step taken.

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A little-known success story that emerged for the US Marine Corps from Vietnam, documented in The Tunnels Of Cuchi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate, may hold relevance here.

A harassed young officer, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver, discovered how the native communist fighters were using underground tunnels to hit his troops and evade. Since the Americans had no experience in dealing with the tunnel menace, he took it upon himself to painstakingly learn and teach his battalion ways to identify bunkers, probe them and only upon completing this “course”, he sought the permission to launch an “operation”.

His troops seized the area, physically searched the ground for holes, any tell tale signs and kept up till 89 of the 92 guerillas operating there were killed, captured or had surrendered.

(THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED AT THE DAILYO PORTAL – http://www.dailyo.in/politics/26-crpf-maoists-die-sukma-bastar-home-ministry-failure/story/1/16839.html)

SINO-INDIAN BORDER: After years of escalation, the unmarked line is cooling down. I report.

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Story appeared in MAIL TODAY on December 30, 2016

2 MINUTE VIDEO explaining the story: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/india-china-border-violation-chinese-military-indian-defence-lowered-down/1/845499.html

PRINT REPORT: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/indian-chinese-soldiers-border-violations-lac-cheshul-depsang-ladakh-itbp/1/845300.html

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OPINION: My piece about a charade even the glorious #RepublicDayParade couldn’t mask

With the customary release of balloons, the 67th Republic Day parade was over. Most faces sported a smile, not all though.

Sometime last year, with the experience of the previous parade behind them, the powers that be argued for a presentation that was cogent and, more importantly, concise. For the planners, the Ceremonial Division of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the message was clear – the duration of the parade had to be minimised.

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On December 12, 2015, an Under Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wrote to his counterpart in the MoD. Titled ‘Composition of Parade’, the single page note consisted names of all the MHA contingents which would participate. Those not included were the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which secures our frontiers with China, Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB), which does the same along Nepal and Bhutan and the most visible armed police force, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which guards utilities like metro, airports, ports etc. Arguments were put forward that some would be accommodated in the ‘Beating The Retreat’ ceremony and it would all be the same.

Did it turn out this way?

Depicting the anguish, on January 27, former Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF) Prakash Singh tweeted, “Republic Day Parade had space for Army dogs, but contingents of Central Forces like ITBP, CISF and SSB, were kept out”. A Whatsapp message the author received from a CISF officer went like this: We wear khakhi thus aren’t as privileged as the army dogs who will be allowed on Rajpath.

Before the parade and after the closure of the celebrations, chat platforms have been awash with the ”ugliness of armed forces being made to sit out”. Multiple voices spoke about the need to have ”somehow managed without making forces get out”. Some suggested that marching down the Rajpath in their ceremonial splendour was but a rare opportunity to leave their impression on the nation’s psyche. “We can’t expect the public to come and see us at remote border outposts,” explained an officer. The combined anger was directed at the Prime Minister, his party as well as functionaries of the Home and Defence ministries. Even the ‘big brother’, the army wasn’t spared. What only a few know is that the army too had to reduce its imprint. From readying ten formations for the parade, it eventually had to turn away two of them, at the last minute.

Under pressure, with barely a week before the parade, a reassessment was done. But only the Border Security Force’s Camel Contingent was asked to join.

Interestingly, the cultural end of the parade has had no such issues.

MoD’s data shows that from a total of 19 tableaux and four groups of school children performing in 2013, the number has consistently risen. Last year, a total of 25 tableaux and six groups of children performed. This year, 23 tableaux and six groups of children were accorded the opportunity.

Having done all of this, the planners did meet the goal and managed to make the parade shorter by a good 21 minutes.

Some, however, are still asking if it was worth the heartburn.

FIRST APPEARED:

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/republic-day-parade-ministry-of-defence-indian-army-cisf-border-security-force-narendra-modi-itbp/story/1/8741.html