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Centre clears plan for anti-Maoist force

- Odisha police to raise Greyhound-like team within next six months

New Delhi, Jan. 15: The Centre today cleared a proposal to raise special forces for anti-Maoist operations in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha within its police on the lines of Andhra Pradesh’s Greyhounds within six months.

The scheme may kick off smoothly in all states but Bihar because of problems over land acquisition. The state not only does not have a training institute for the police but also has massive hurdles in land acquisition. Sources said if a 1,000-plus elite force is raised, dedicated land would be a must. However, in both Bihar and Bengal land acquisition is a touchy issue triggering immediate protests. In fact, counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist training schools in Bihar are created within battalions in Gaya and Buxar where farmers are unwilling to give land for even industrial projects let alone police training schools.

Of the nine Naxalite-affected states, Bihar and Jharkhand are seen to be in need of such a force the most. “Odisha has performed the best in this regard,” said a government source in New Delhi.

Greyhounds, the elite anti-Naxalite force in Andhra Pradesh, will not serve as the model but also as trainers for these special forces. The Greyhounds are considered to be principal reason on the ground for pushing back the rebels from the southern state.

The expenditure finance committee (EFC) in the finance ministry today cleared the proposal and sanctioned Rs 280 crore for equipment and training of the forces. The money would be equally disbursed among the four states in addition to the Greyhounds, which will also receive funds for its upgrade. The project, a home ministry initiative, was in the offing since last year.

The Greyhounds was formed in 1989 with commando training and education about Naxalite philosophy and tactics. Taking departure from the conventional hierarchical structures of police forces, the Greyhounds are a leveller. A deputy superintendent of police may be trained by a constable and a subinspector may carry an AK-47 when his senior may be allowed only a pistol. “It is on the basis of how good the man is, not on seniority,” a senior former Greyhounds officer said. Moving around in teams ranging from 18-24 men, these commandos have had a high strike rate in getting the Maoists. It is their difference from conventional structures that the four states will need to learn the most, an official said.

Funds will be disbursed under the head of the scheme for special infrastructure. Each state will be funded up to Rs 56 crore, sources told The Telegraph. A fourth of the expenditure of the total would be borne by the states, sources added.

“The project will include provision of modern weaponry and solid training of the forces from former and serving Greyhounds personnel,” said a source.

Brigadier Sanjay Agarwal, who is attached to the Naxalite management division in the home ministry, will oversee the training and ensure standardisation for forces in the different states.