Category Archives: mine protected vehicle

Born inside the Union Home Ministry, I am SOP and here’s my story…

My name is Standard Operating Procedure. You can call me SOP.

You will hear about me whenever something goes terribly wrong or a tragedy strikes. Many carry the impression that my tribe is the cure to all ills.

Now I am not simply called SOP. That’s too generic. I have a special number assigned on file but mentioning that may make matters too technical.

Well, I was born as a two-page letter on August 3, 2010, at the hands of a clerk who worked for the then special secretary (internal security) Mr UK Bansal. In my early moments, I recall Mr Bansal sending me from his chamber located on the first floor of the North Block which houses the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to the headquarters of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) like the CRPF, Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

Why was I created and what was the message I carried?

Back in 2010, home minister Mr P Chidambaram was said to be serious in securing the Left-wing extremism (LWE)-affected areas. These were sizeable parts of central and eastern India where rebels from the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) were wreaking havoc. Once when I was lying on the desk at an office I heard how four months before I was born, Maoist rebels killed 75 men from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and one policeman in a single attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district!

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The government’s efforts however hit a roadblock when they realised that the local police forces in their states had neither the training nor the numbers to take on the Maoist insurgents who called the jungle their home. So, till the police could build themselves up, the CAPFs would help them with numbers and fire power. It was to be a partnership.

As time passed, Mr Bansal, a 1974-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, wasn’t very happy about how this partnership was progressing. The CAPFs, which did not belong there, did not know the region or for that matter even the local language, felt like foreigners. The local police on the other hand did not suffer these disadvantages but they did not participate enough. The Maoists exploited this. They killed many of our men.

On my two pages, Mr Bansal had written that for every one policeman participating in an operation, two men from CAPFs would do so too, thus maintaining a ratio of 1:2. He revised it to 1:3 later for “any planned operation”. Only in case of an urgent operation could reduced police participation be allowed. You see the point he was making?

Have you wondered how many policemen participated in the “planned” operations to support road construction in Bhejji on March 11 and in Burkapal on April 24 where the CRPF lost 37 men? Two constables in Bhejji and one in Burkapal! This despite the MHA recently stating that there are “over 20,000 state police personnel” and “45,000 central forces personnel” posted in there.

People in power have no idea about my existence.

When journalist Jugal Purohit went about asking, here is what he found:

– Abhishek Meena, Superintendent of Police, Sukma: No such guidelines exist and no such guidelines can be adhered to.

– DM Awasthi, Special Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh: Such instructions can’t be followed.

– Sudeep Lakhtakia, Additional Director General, CRPF: I will have to check up.

– K Vijay Kumar, senior security adviser, MHA: You cannot have such rigidity.

– The spokesperson of the MHA did not offer any explanation.

This is my reality.

Someone sitting removed from the actual situation thought about me and pushed me down the throats of others who had their own ideas. Then when something went wrong, newer people came together and created newer SOPs. Lessons were seldom learnt. I remain forgotten.

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CRPF personnel killed when the Maoists detonated a landmine under the truck they were moving in. March 30, 2016 MAILAWADA in DANTEWADA DISTRICT. IMAGE SOURCE: Author 

Contrast this with our enemy who bears the name of a foreigner who died more than 40 years ago. That enemy deploys his tactics and remains guided by his doctrine even today. He hasn’t forgotten.

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE DAILYO PORTAL:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/sukma-attack-maoists-crpf-sop/story/1/16963.html

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Sukma, CG: Cops won’t occupy fortified stations till furniture & colouring is done

Assuring the assembly of chief ministers of ten Maoist-hit states about the centre’s support in terms of training, resources and intelligence, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh added a condition nevertheless. “But states must take initiative to conduct operations and use resources optimally”, he said before inaugurating the key meeting on May 8. While the national meet was called in the wake of repeated reverses suffered in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, Singh’s words have failed in making any impact in that very place. Exemplifying that irony are two ready yet unused ‘heavily-fortified police stations which can serve as an impregnable base for nearly 200 troops’ at any given point in time.

Ready for months now and located in the heart of the troubled Sukma district, the local police has failed to move in to either of them. Inexplicably it has ensured that policemen and counterparts from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) continue to operate in lesser strength from older barracks in the vicinity.

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Report appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on May 18, 2017

Running south from the town of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region is the National Highway (NH) 221, re-named as NH30. It has had a particularly bloodied past. Among the instances of bloodlust the road has witnessed, the brutal massacre of the Congress party’s state leadership in the Jheeram Ghati in May 2013 reverberates in the national consciousness to this date. Located along that highway are the towns of Kukanar and Chhindgarh, separated by 15km. It is in these towns that the two fortified police stations have been constructed under central assistance where funds up to Rs 624 crore have been made available to ten states for a total of 400 such police stations. There are in all 75 such police stations earmarked for Chhattisgarh alone.

According to a local resident in Kukanar, “The building has been ready since the end of 2016 but no one has occupied it yet. Earlier this year, villagers were asked to attend its inauguration but we are still waiting for an invite.” Similarly in Chhindgarh, locals said the building was awaiting occupancy since nearly a year. “May be it is about not getting VIPs to inaugurate it or something else, we don’t know. There are other smaller police stations in other parts of Sukma also lying empty we have heard,” said another local resident.

When asked for its response and stand on the issue, the Home Ministry kept mum. In Chhattisgarh, DM Awasthi, Special Director General, Anti Naxal Operations (ANO) said, “The one at Kukanar has been handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately. In Chhindgarh, there are minor repairs pending.” Sukma’s Superintendent of Police, Abhishek Meena when asked said, “Chhindgarh building is ready but colouring and repair work is left. In Kukanar, we have ordered furniture and awaiting its set up”.

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The brand new compound in Kukanar lying unused. ‘Handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately’, says senior police officer DM Awasthi. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

This delay has not gone down well with members of the security set up.

“Where is the will to take on Maoists? In Delhi, they talk about doing things on war-footing, senior officials fly in and out conducting meetings and on the ground, the police is unwilling to move, wasting precious infrastructure,” said a source on the condition of anonymity. Another source observed, “Across the country, there is outrage over how Maoists are killing security forces and here the policemen are waiting for well-designed, coloured and comfortable police stations”.

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Chhindgarh’s fortified police station lying unused. The area SP told me his force had sought colouring and repair jobs before they could move it. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

Interestingly, in the aftermath of the Burkapal ambush in Sukma last month where 25 CRPF personnel were killed by the Maoists, the centre had defended the state police’s role. In a statement released on April 26th, the union home ministry had stated, “It is incorrect to say that Chhattisgarh Police is in shambles. In addition to 45,000 Central Forces, over 20,000 State Police personnel are posted in Bastar region. The Chhattisgarh police forces are well equipped and a Bastar package for police was introduced in end 2015. There is complete coordination between Centre and State forces”.

STORY FIRST APPEARED ON INDIA TODAY PORTAL: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rajnath-singh-maoists-chhattisgarh-police-stations/1/955854.html

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.

New Doc 2017-05-12

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)

AFTER URI & BEFORE SURGICAL STRIKES: The Kashmir I saw

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It is early morning in Handwara town in north Kashmir

LONG STORY (30 minutes) AIRED ON INDIA TODAY TV ON OCT 1 & 2, 2016:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/programme/line-of-control-uti-attacks-army-pakistan-terror/1/777747.html

WHEN I WENT TO THE LAST VILLAGE BEFORE THE LoC:

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Youth in the village of Naogam Patwari assembled when they saw us, the ‘Indian media’.
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Condition of the village road left a lot to be desired. People told us that barring the army, they simply had no one to rely on.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/loc-kashmir-naugam-patwari-infiltration-bid/1/771085.html

MY DISPATCH FROM THE LoC – THREE DAYS BEFORE THE SURGICAL STRIKES:

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Somewhere along the Line of Control, Border Security Force personnel stand guard

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/uri-attack-india-fortifies-border-positions-loc-pakistan-terrorists/1/773061.html

JHARKHAND: No mine proof veh despite order, jawans took this truck, were blasted

VIDEO: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/ied-blast-kills-crpf-men/1/583379.html

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It was close to 5:30pm in the remote Kalapahadi area in Jharkhand’s Palamu district – one among 18 affected districts of the state. The long-drawn, anti-Maoist operation had ended and the five teams involved in the operation were returning to their bases. One of them was of police personnel from the Hussainabad.

Going against the agreed-upon decision to walk back to their respective bases, the contingent called for a vehicle. After all they had gone searching for trouble and returned unharmed. All was going the way it was envisaged.

Crater caused by the blast

And then, a deafening roar stunned everyone.

Members of the outlawed Communist Party  of India (Maoist) had managed to successfully detonate an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) under the chasis of a medium-sized truck carrying the policemen. Investigation has revealed it was a deadly concoction of gas cylinders, ammonium nitrate with splinters thrown in.

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Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on January 30, 2016

By the end of the day, seven members had lost their lives and six had sustained injuries.

This is pretty much how most attacks in the conflict-ridden central and eastern parts of the country end.

However, this isn’t how it was to be.

In 2009, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), had issued a guideline authorising every force fighting the Maoists to acquire a better mechanism to respond to the growing threat posed by IEDs – the Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs). The ‘authorisation’ stated that for a General Duty (GD) battalion (about 1000 troops) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) – the force nominated as the lead counter insurgency in the country – there will be seven MPVs allowed and for a specialist battalion of COBRA, as many as ten such vehicles would be allowed. This, in other words, implied that budget-wise the MHA would have little objection if forces would desire these vehicles.

The Jharkhand Police which has as many as 250 of its police stations ‘affected’ by Maoist menace has not more than 80 such vehicles. By this count, when required, men from more than three police stations will have to jostle to get one such vehicle! The CRPF which reports to the MHA has fared even worse. When it fields 22 battalions (approximately 23000 troops) in Jharkhand, it only has 30 MPVs to offer them. As against one MPV per approximately 100-250 troops allowed, today’s ratio is one MPV for more than 750 troops, if all the vehicles are up and available.

“It is very easy for our bosses who use choppers or vehicles on fully sanitised roads to say we should avoid vehicles. We get so tired after long drawn operations that at the first sight of a road, it is difficult to control your men who all express their desire to be driven,” said a jawan.

MPV representative image

With specialised vehicles which offer a relatively better chance of survival for troops virtually absent, forces have no option but to rely on trucks, local vehicles like buses and jeeps and even ambulances, all of which the Maoists have successfully blasted killing most of those inside. On occasions when security forces have used these civilian vehicles, the insurgents have not shied away from blasting them as well notwithstanding collateral damage.

Indecision, multiple false-starts and indifference has contributed to this. In 2014, the then Director General of CRPF, Dilip Trivedi asked for a surrendering of all MPVs the force had. It was attributed to the lack of interest. However following an uproar, the force revised its stand.

Former Border Security Force (BSF) Director General Prakash Singh, “When long distances have to be covered, MPVs should be used. They can offer a better degree of protection. We need to see if the funds for MPVs were not allocated or not utilised or diverted. This should be looked into.”

Home Minister Rajnath Singh did not respond to the question asked on the matter.

Written story appeared first on INDIA

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/jharkhand-blast-mine-proof-vehicles-absent-jawans-chose-defenceless-truck/1/582842.html