The damaged vehicles at the service centre near Asanboni. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Jamshedpur, July 29: Three out of four anti-landmine vehicles allotted to East Singhbhum police have been lying defunct for more than two years, restricting effective night patrolling in the Naxalite-hit district to a few areas in Ghatshila.
The vehicles were provided to the police in 2008-09.
Two were damaged in landmine blasts triggered by rebels in Chakulia and Ghurabandha in 2009. The third was rendered useless after a road mishap in 2010.
Sergeant major of East Singhbhum district J.P. Nag said he had sent two of the damaged vehicles to a service centre on NH-33 near Asanboni village for repairs, while another continues to gather dust at Ghurabandha.
M.K. Verma, the regional head of Ashok Leyland Service Centre that looks after the repairing of heavy vehicles, expressed helplessness, claiming the police seemed uninterested in getting the damaged machines repaired.
“The East Singhbhum district police left two damaged anti-landmine vehicles at our workshop. But the department has neither given us a work order nor paid us money for repairs,” said Verma.
Complaining of police sluggishness, Verma added, “We have given estimates for repairs of the two vehicles and even asked the department to make payments in advance. Over seven months have passed since the two vehicles were left with us, but they have not progressed beyond it.”
He added that they had told Nag that unless they were paid in advance, they would not touch the vehicles.
He pointed out that repair costs of the vehicles would be Rs 1.7 lakh and Rs 3 lakh respectively.
When asked, Nag said: “The IG (provisions), who looks after sanctioning funds for repair of vehicles, cannot approve more than Rs 40,000. But as the estimates exceed the limit by a long shot, he has written to the home department for sanctions.”
He argued the delay was inevitable as getting sanctions involved time.
Nevertheless, the handicap to patrolling duties has been most palpable during Naxalite-sponsored bandhs when anti-landmine vehicles come in handy for escorting commercial vehicles. But for the past two years, only one anti-landmine vehicle has been tasked with the job.
Subdivisional police officer of Ghatshila Naresh Prasad said personnel were utilising bullet-proof jeeps for patrolling in absence of anti-landmine vehicles.
The state government has ordered that night patrolling — which anti-landmine vehicles are a part and parcel of — be done regularly in the 18 Naxalite-hit districts.