The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Force file with PMO

New Delhi, Nov. 7: The decision whether to send central forces to Nandigram rests with the Prime Minister’s Office.

Sources quoted Union home minister Shivraj Patil as saying he could not spare any battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force. Not only were all the 191 battalions committed, the situation in Nandigram did not warrant deployment of the CRPF, they added.

Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked for the CRPF to be sent.

“It is a law and order situation and the state forces should be in a position to handle it. Only if the situation goes beyond the state’s control do the central forces need to step in. But because of the sensitivity of the case and the present political scenario, it has been left to the PMO to decide,” a senior home ministry official said.

It was not possible to pull out personnel from their present positions since the borders are vulnerable following the declaration of emergency in Pakistan, the sources said.

“Although the Border Security Force is guarding the peripheries of the country, the CRPF is the mainstay of internal security in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast,” the official said. “We had pulled out some CRPF companies (each has about 125 personnel) from Tinsukia and suffered reverses. We have to be very careful.”

All the CRPF battalions are committed at present. Other than Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Naxalite-affected areas, especially in Chhattisgarh, the force polices Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament and the remaining seats of power.

CRPF director-general S.I.S. Ahmad had said last week that it was not possible to withdraw personnel from most places, especially Jammu and Kashmir.

The sanctioned strength of the CRPF is 201 battalions, but 10 are still under training.

Skilful jugglery of personnel will be required even to send forces to Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat for the elections later this year.

“Fortunately, there is no need to pull out many battalions for Himachal. The CRPF will move into the state around November 20. We are hoping two to three battalions will be sufficient,” an official said.

Gujarat would be different. “The Election Commission has already told the home ministry the CRPF should spare around 10 battalions. If the CRPF cannot spare so many battalions, the commission has also given the option of using State Armed Police (SAP) personnel from other states,” the official added.

The central forces guard polling stations and protect voters and polling personnel. They are needed to secure strongrooms where the electronic voting machines are stored and at counting centres. The forces are sometimes also deployed in advance for area domination.

With inputs from Nishit Dholabhai

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