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Schools shut, CRPF suffers

New Delhi, March 13: The CRPF is suffering casualties at a time the central force is facing charges that training and intelligence gathering are being neglected.

At least eight of the 16 auxiliary training schools across the country have been shut down over the past year, sources told The Telegraph. An intelligence wing the CRPF created two years ago is apparently facing the axe as a school to build intelligence-gathering skills has been shut down.

On Tuesday, 11 CRPF jawans were killed in a Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh. The loss of life is now being seen as “avoidable” and attributed to a failure to change patterns of patrolling.

Some feel that the casualties and a steady closure of training institutions are correlated but the CRPF thinks otherwise. “What has that (closure) got to do with it (casualties)?” asked CRPF director-general Dilip Trivedi in response to a question.

But officers say they feel the pinch as the force has just one centre at Gurgaon for basic training.

Perceived neglect of training in the largest paramilitary organisation — the CRPF has over 2 lakh personnel — has caught the attention of North Block, where the Union home ministry is located.

According to sources, some reforms, including the plans for auxiliary training schools, were conceived by former CRPF director-general K. Vijay Kumar. But they were virtually reversed over the past year. Kumar is now an adviser in the home ministry.

Only one CRPF jawan had died two years ago in Chhattisgarh but the past year has seen 20 casualties, including Tuesday’s toll.

Other sources contended that the home ministry should also share the blame as North Block kept financial sanction pending for these institutions. Financial approvals from the home ministry are said to have slowed over the past year because of a variety of reasons, including red tape.

Some officials said that according to their information, the CRPF was understood to have taken a policy decision to close down “ad hoc” institutions. “These auxiliary institutes were extremely helpful, now only the main academies will work,” said a government official. “There were two options in the face of a funds crunch — pursue it with the ministry or shut the institutes down. The CRPF chose the latter,” said a source.

Training was one of the thrust areas of Kumar after he was brought in by then home minister P. Chidambaram. The trigger was the massacre of 76 security personnel by the CPI (Maoist) in Chhattisgarh in April 2010.

Later, an intelligence wing for the CRPF was also sanctioned, particularly to counter Left-wing extremism. The intelligence training school was also set up but did not have independent financial sanction.

Earlier this month, a former intelligence official working as a consultant in charge of the set-up was relieved of his responsibilities.

In the past two years, the intelligence school is understood to have trained 1,000 officers and jawans of the CRPF for internal postings.

“It has been useful and the intelligence wing will continue,” Trivedi said.

But some officers expressed the fear that with the school closing down, the intelligence mechanism would also collapse in due course.

An internal assessment had found that around 23 per cent of positive results were attributed to intelligence-gathering. Sources said that although these were minor seizures or successful raids, the intelligence generated might have helped save lives.

The resource crunch is not limited to the support system. The so-called elite CoBRA battalions are also starved of resources. A CoBRA battalion that uses infrared monoculars to conduct night operations in a Naxalite-affected state has complained that over half of the monoculars are not in working condition, according to sources.