The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chopper to take charge
Bigger role awaiting poll vehicle

Purulia, April 14: Police in Maoist-insurgency Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore have made a case for helicopters to be used to combat the extremist armed squads.

The helicopters are to be used for rapid deployment of security forces because fear of landmines laid by the insurgents is slowing down security forces.

The police want to requisition at least one helicopter for each district that will be capable of ferrying 20 personnel. But, to start with, a request has been made for at least one helicopter to cover the hilly and forested belt stretching from West Midnapore to Purulia along the border with Jharkhand.

Earlier, a study by Jharkhand police and the civil aviation department had made a case for a Jharkhand Air Guard. The study was submitted to the Union home ministry late last year.

The use of helicopters against Maoist armed squads in Bengal can necessitate the creation of a separate force or the creation of a special component in the security grid for the state. The Andhra Pradesh government did it a few years ago with a force that it calls the 'Greyhounds'.

The Union home ministry and the security establishment in Delhi, too, are grad-ually veering round to the view that extraordinary steps need to be taken to curtail Maoists across seven states. Last month, the cabinet committee on Security approved enhanced reimbursement of security-related expenditure in these states.

Helicopters would be used in the first phase of the Bengal Assembly elections due here on April 17 to ferry polling personnel.

But these choppers would not be at the disposal of the state government after the polls.

The police have already been given digital maps and global positioning systems and these are in use in Bengal. Night vision devices have also been given to a Special Operations Group of the state armed police. Each of the three districts in Bengal have a special operations group equipped with AK 47 and Insas rifles, night vision devices and a digitised map of their area of responsibility.

Armed police director-general Rajat Majumdar is also understood to have demonstrated a US-made human detection system that is in the process of being acquired. The system works on the ultra low frequency radiation emitted by a human body to detect movement within a radius of 500 metres. They are different from the thermal imaging systems used by the army along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Maoists' arsenal comprises mostly .303 rifles and 7.65-mm SLRs snatched from the police ' mostly in Jharkhand but also in Bengal ' and Claymore mines that can be buried on the road but also hung from trees.

The latest incident of rifle snatching in Bengal was in Purulia on February 13. One officer said it was within 'audible range' from Purulia town.

This is how he described the incident at Katadi: 'A few young men walked up to a police chowky (outpost) next to a primary health centre. They pretended that they were engaged in a scuffle in the train and had come there to lodge an FIR and then to get medication at the primary health centre. Having gained access, they neutralised the sentry, picked up about six guns and fled. They were mostly .303 rifles.'

The real challenge for the administration will be immediately after the polls ' of which the Maoists have called for a boycott but at the same time are saying they will not engineer major disruption ' after most of the paramilitary forces are deployed for duties elsewhere during the five-phase elections.

Just before the polls there were five companies of the CRPF, Eastern Frontier Rifles, and the India Reserve Battalion deployed in the region.

For the elections, an additional 161 companies ' more than 16,000 personnel ' from the CRPF, BSF and Haryana police are in the process of being deployed.

The need for helicopters will be felt most after the central forces are withdrawn.

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