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Saranda jawans battle sting

- Cerebral malaria preys on 200, CRPF rues camp crunch

Ranchi, Aug. 7: Security personnel may have recaptured Saranda from Maoists, but forced to live in tents in the West Singhbhum forests in the absence of permanent camps, they are exposed to mosquitoes that have left 200 CRPF jawans battling cerebral malaria since the past one week.

“More than 200 jawans have been diagnosed with cerebral malaria. They are undergoing treatment at various places in Kiriburu, Chaibasa and Jamshedpur. Moreover, every day, about 40 jawans are showing symptoms of the disease though some have recovered,” CRPF deputy inspector-general of Chaibasa operational area Bhanu Pratap Singh told The Telegraph over phone.

Around 600 jawans have been deputed in temporary camps, mainly to provide security cover to projects launched by the Centre and the state under Saranda Development Plan, a Rs 250-crore initiative covering 56 villages in the saal reserve.

The makeshift camps, situated in the middle of the forest at Jambaiburu, Thalkobad, Kaliaposhi and Digha, have been in place for a couple of months, with the jawans taking shelter in tents.

There have been no casualties yet, but a jawan of CRPF’s 174th Battalion, Karanjeet Singh, has suffered multiple organ failure after he contracted cerebral malaria. He is battling for life in the ICU of Tata Main Hospital in Jamshedpur.

CRPF DIG Singh said the forces had no choice but to find replacements for the afflicted jawans.

“A jawan suffering from cerebral malaria becomes so weak that we cannot send him for operations for at least a month or two. We are also granting leave to the jawans who have been released from hospital,” he said.

A brush with cerebral malaria in Saranda, especially during the rainy season, isn’t new for security personnel.

Last year, Cobra jawan Virendra Saini had succumbed to the vector-borne disease in Noamundi.

The 27-year-old from Hissar, Haryana, was deployed in Tirilposhi as part of Operation Anaconda, the protracted joint operation of the CRPF and state police in August-September last year that led to the purging of Maoists from their erstwhile bastion in West Singhbhum.