An increase in the number of flying hours for the Indian Air Force (IAF), commando training by the Army for the District Reserve Guard (DRG), use of India Reserve Battalions (IRBs) instead of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for road-opening duties, and more joint command-and-control centres — these will be some of the key agenda points when union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chairs a meeting of 10 Naxal-affected states on Monday.
The DRG are a wing of Chhattisgarh Police comprising mostly of villagers and surrendered Naxals, similar to the erstwhile Special Police Officers (SPOs). IRBs are elite armed police units in each state, who are trained to deal with specific situations.
On April 25, a day after Maoists killed 25 CRPF personnel in an ambush in Sukma, the deadliest attack on security forces in Chhattisgarh in seven years, Singh had said the government would review its anti-Naxal strategy. Earlier, on March 11, Maoists had killed 13 CRPF personnel, also in Sukma. Five days after the April 24 attack, security forces in Chhattisgarh had called off all road-opening duties for the next “10 days to a fortnight”.
Officials said Monday’s review meeting has been divided into two segments: the first session will focus on security aspects, while development issues will be taken up during the post-lunch session.
While the Centre has ruled out any direct involvement of the Army in areas hit by Left-Wing Extremism (LWE), there is a plan to “explore increasing number of flying hours by IAF carrying security personnel for operations” in the red corridor, says the agenda note for the meeting. The Indian Army will be asked to provide training to the DRG, a top government official said, adding that states will also be directed to identify and construct temporary stations for the landing of aircraft in remote areas to facilitate operations by security forces.
Also on the agenda is a discussion on stepping up operations led by states, with the help of central armed police forces (CAPFs). Only one such joint command-and-control centre — in Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh — is operational currently. There is a plan to start joint command centres in Singhbhum (Jharkhand) and Gaya (Bihar), according to the agenda note.
The May 8 meeting is likely to be attended by the district magistrates and superintendents of police of the 35 worst LWE-affected districts, officials said. A total 106 districts in 10 states, including Chhattishgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar, have been declared Naxal-affected.
The note says that the Centre has taken a serious view of the infrequent “meeting of unified command”. Singh is likely to take up the matter with Chief Ministers, and urge them to ensure there are meetings more often. Reports have indicated that the unified command in Naxal-affected States are not meeting regularly.
There is a proposal to “redeploy” the CRPF, enhance security at their camps with “installation of CCTVs to ward off any attacks by Naxals”, who may also try to loot weapons, bulletproof jackets and communications equipment. The Centre will also instruct state police chiefs to conduct inter-state joint exercises, since many of the strongholds of the Maoists are in the border areas of two or three states.
Other points on the agenda include strengthening of intelligence networks at the district level, and filling vacancies in the state police forces. The Home Ministry will also lay emphasis on the use of modern technologies by security forces, including increased use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and body heat sensors.
On the development front, the MHA, along with other central ministries and state governments will focus on road projects, electrification of villages, and improving telecommunications networks, officials said.