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Dispur scouts for special cops

Guwahati, Nov. 12: A string of militant attacks has forced Dispur to bolster the intelligence network with more special police officers.

Highly placed sources in Dispur said deputy commissioners will now have the power to appoint special police officers under the Police Act. They said preference would be given to those who have already worked in the police department or in the armed forces.

The government is also planning to seek the help of private security agencies to widen its intelligence network.

Confirming the move, director-general of police D.N. Dutt said around 1,500 special police officers would be appointed.

The existing strength of the corps of special police officers has not been officially disclosed, but sources in the police department said many opted out during the previous term of the Tarun Gogoi government. This is attributed partly to the warnings issued by Ulfa to those helping out or assisting the police in counter-insurgency operations.

Without revealing the mechanics of the strategy adopted by the administration, chief secretary S. Kabilan, who heads the Unified Command think tank, said all possible sources would be tapped to strengthen the intelligence and security framework.

The move has become necessary in the wake of all-round criticism of the existing intelligence network. It has been found to be severely wanting, given the attacks carried out with impunity by militant outfits in recent times.

The push for a review of the intelligence network has come on the heels of the twin blasts in the city, which claimed the lives of 15 people, and another blast earlier during Chhat Puja, that killed one person.

Even Governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh had expressed his displeasure over the existing intelligence network. He wanted dedicated and patriotic persons to be roped in for forming a professional and captive intelligence on terrorism.

Yesterday, the Purbottar Hindustani Sammelan moved Dispur with a plea to put a full stop to the recurrent blasts by boosting, among other things, its intelligence network.

A deputy commissioner said he has not received formal intimation but added that appointment of SPOs would increase while more and more private security agencies will be tapped. His stand was echoed by another DC.

A police official said an SPO could be a person from any walk of life and not necessarily someone with a defence and police background. “Preference is given to those with a defence or police background, but we also look for any person who is sincere, dedicated, hardworking and is familiar with the area while having good rapport with local people,” he said.

Appointments as well as remuneration of SPOs are cleared by the respective district administrations. In some areas, such as OIL and ONGC installations, the administration helps provide the SPOs but the payment is made by these institutions.

An SPO enjoys virtually all the powers of regular police official. “He can pull up anybody and even hand over anybody to the police,” the police official said.

He added, “A new approach towards gathering information is required because of the growing penetration and influence enjoyed by militant outfits.”

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