Two days after Maoists killed 25 men from the Burkapal camp of the CRPF 74 Battalion while they were trying to secure an under-construction road in south Sukma, a top CRPF officer said he had repeatedly raised “the terribly slow pace of road construction” with the Chhattisgarh government.
D P Upadhyaya, DIG (Operations) CRPF, told The Indian Express: “One of the primary things I have raised repeatedly with the state government is the terribly slow pace of road construction. Instead of being in the forests conducting operations, our manpower is constantly protecting infrastructure development. That is our duty, but this Dornapal-Jagargunda road has been under construction for years, and the pace of work is slow.”
The Indian Express reported Wednesday that a proposal to adopt a new technology that would cut time taken to construct a 1-km road stretch to just around two days had been gathering dust with the Chhattisgarh government for at least three years. The technology, provided by many companies, uses state-of-the-art soil stabilisation techniques and unique binding material.
Underlining that pace of road construction needs to be prioritised, senior CRPF officers said contractors building these roads are “often small contractors with very little resources”.
“One patch of road has several contractors making different stretches, and they have little technology and investment. Roads take ages to make and, in that period, our men are sitting ducks. In operations, we make the narrative. But while securing a road, there is very little flexibility in positions and we are always under threat,” an officer said.
Officers also spoke of the need to invest in “human intelligence” along the roads. “We need to adopt inventive strategies to get people from villages along the road to get involved in the process. Give them work along the roads or some other strategy. Without local human intelligence, these instances will keep happening,” one of the officers said.
While The Indian Express was at the Burkapal camp on Wednesday, the CRPF was alerted about the possible presence of Maoists in the area, preparing for another attack. An officer, who had reached the camp on Tuesday, asked if there was an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to check the claim. “We don’t have one,” those from the camp responded.
Upadhyaya said what could help in such terrain were PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras — these will provide a 360-degree visual of the road and areas in and around. He said in Bastar, only a camp in Bijapur had this facility.
Officers said there was need to recognise that jungle warfare requires specialisation and special training exercises.
“Our men fight bravely in terrain which is alien, and often completely in Maoist control. They don’t know the local dialects. There are no local representatives who translate for us. Like the Army, we should have joint training exercises with troops fighting in jungles for years. There are countries that have vast experience fighting forest insurgencies for years — Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka. That’s something to look at,” a senior officer said.