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State wakes up to protect police

Oct. 25: Sankrail has prompted the state government to decide to fortify 30 police stations it considers “vulnerable” to Maoist strikes but has so far left without modern weapons, enough manpower or vehicles — even boundary walls.

The decision came at a secretariat meeting chaired by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who reviewed the situation arising out of the Sankrail attack and the abduction of a police officer. The meeting identified 12 more police stations as facing a Maoist threat and added them to an earlier list of 18, where no upgrade has been done so far.

Sixteen of the 30 police stations are in West Midnapore, nine in Purulia and five in Bankura.

Home secretary Ardhendu Sen said these police stations, many of them “severely short-staffed”, will be provided with sophisticated arms, personnel and regular training.

Most of these police stations — such as Gopiballavpur, Beliabera, Nayagram, Dantan and Mohanpur in West Midnapore — lie near the Jharkhand or Orissa borders.

While Gopiballavpur is about 8km from either border, the rest are within 8km of Orissa. Sankrail police station is about 25km from the Orissa border but the Maoists still struck there last Tuesday.

THE shield

The plans for the vulnerable police stations

Semi-automatic weapons

Doubling personnel (most now have less than 40)

More vehicles

Fence or boundary walls, or raising their height

Sandbag bunkers on roofs

Regular training

“Some police stations have a staff strength of 15 to 20 and possess only a few .303 rifles and revolvers. If some personnel go out to probe a murder or dacoity with these weapons, those who stay behind are virtually left without any arms,” an officer said.

As of now, he said, additional Eastern Frontier Rifles and State Armed Police jawans have been posted at the “vulnerable” police stations.

Sen highlighted another area of “concern”. He said: “Many of these police stations have no fencing… we will erect the fencing.” Officials in West Midnapore said three police stations in Jhargram fall in the Maoist zone and none has full-length fencing.

“The chief minister said whatever needed to be done must be done immediately,” Sen said. “An initial fund of Rs 7.5 crore has been allotted.”

Asked if Calcutta faced a danger from Maoists, Sen said there was no specific threat to the city, but added: “They have links in Calcutta and some of them have visited the city. So, city police need to be alert.”

 

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