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CCTV to track Saranda rebels

Jamshedpur, Dec. 25: CRPF for armed combat, CCTV cameras for unarmed.

The paramilitary forces, in the thick of a fresh offensive against Maoists in Saranda, are contemplating to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the West Singhbhum forest to monitor movement of rebels regularly even as they seek answers to questions over the upkeep of the gadgets.

CRPF DIG (Chaibasa operational range) Ashok Samyal said the high-tech plan to monitor movement of suspected Naxalites in Saranda was in an early stage.

“Our plan is to scan the paths, used regularly by people, including villagers, forest officials and the rebels, which lead to the interiors of the forest. Once the CCTV cameras are installed, we will be in a position to differentiate between ordinary villagers and Naxalites,” said Samyal, who is looking after the ongoing Operation Anaconda-II in Saranda.

The DIG said the forces were planning to install the cameras at select points. He added the devices could be operated through solar power, which is being used as an alternative energy source in Saranda.

But CRPF officers are in a fix over maintenance and logistics after installation of the CCTVs inside an 850sqkm-forest area where access to the administrative machinery remains difficult.

“What is cropping up as a major hurdle is the maintenance of CCTV cameras. As a result, we have not prepared any proposal yet,” said Samyal.

The forces are also wary of the possibility of the rebels snapping connections or stealing the CCTV cameras.

Samyal, however, said the police and paramilitary forces would find solutions to ensure proper maintenance.

Another CRPF officer pointed out that it was not always feasible to carry out a protracted operation such as Operation Anaconda-I (July 28-August 2, 2011).

“As Saranda is located at a strategically important place, Maoists will continue to make attempts to return and woo villagers for reclaiming their former hub. But it is not possible to carry out extensive operations frequently,” said the officer, adding, “Installation of CCTV cameras is the best option for monitoring the movement of rebels.”

The officer admitted a sizeable number of Maoists were staying in Saranda but had not been identified as they mingled with villagers well enough to make sure they received shelter as well as necessary goods, including cloth.

“If CCTV cameras are installed at strategic locations in the jungle, we are sure they will act as a deterrent for the Naxalites,” he added.

Meanwhile, West Singhbhum SP Pankaj Kamboj said the Operation Anaconda-II — launched on December 10 after armed Maoists torched vehicles engaged by a road construction agency in Kiriburu last month — was progressing smoothly.

“We have not come across any rebel training camp, unlike in the previous operation (Anaconda-I) during which the police and CRPF personnel had found and razed quite a few camps. But we will sanitise the area by means of CCTV cameras and constant monitoring so that the rebels can be differentiated from the common man,” he added.