Ranchi, Oct. 8: It finally took only 25 minutes for a helicopter today to reach Baniadih (Chatra), 200 km from the Jharkhand capital. But it took off five hours after a blast ripped through a platoon of policemen and paramilitary forces when a constable opened a wooden box with a label that read “details of levy”.
By the time the chopper landed at 1.30 pm, a deputy commandant of the CRPF and a deputy superintendent of state police had bled to their death. The toll read 13 dead and 14 injured, eight of whom were air-lifted and admitted to a hospital.
Officials blamed technical snags for the delay. Army helicopters were finally requisitioned after the state government’s helicopter was ruled not fit for flying. CRPF and police officials fumed that they were repeatedly asked to wait for the choppers.
“We could have driven the injured to nearby hospitals and their lives could have been saved,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
Senior police officials conceded that it looked like a well-laid trap. Police were tipped off about a large number of armed Maoists having taken shelter in the village. Around 38 policemen were quickly mobilised and sent to the village and led to the hut that contained the wooden box.
Police officers on the ground are reported to have successfully quelled a brewing rebellion as the surviving policemen were getting restive at the delay in the arrival of the helicopter.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Jharkhand Police Association criticised the state government for going slow on police modernisation. While crores of rupees were being spent, it said, policemen on the ground remained without basic facilities.
Less than a month ago, on September 11, Maoists had attacked a village in Giridih and brutally killed 15 villagers after branding them police informers.