Amid successful operations against left-wing extremism (LWE) in Jharkhand, the state government has sought five additional Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalions from the Centre, besides seeking exemptions from forest clearance for certain categories of development projects.
The demands were put forward by Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma in a review meeting in New Delhi on Friday. The review meeting, chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, pertained to security and development programmes going in the LWE-affected areas in the country.
Officials here said that there are currently 20 battalions of the CPRF and two battalions of the Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) deployed in the state in the operation against the Maoists. The demand for additional battalions has been made to consolidate the operations going on in 13 ‘focus areas’ – which includes places like Banalat (Gumla), Pesrar (Lohardaga), Parasnath (Giridih) and Balumath (Latehar).
“The forces have managed to push back Maoists from a large part of the state. The 13 focused area action plan is aimed at removing them from their core areas. Also, apart from security-related operations, these areas are to be backed by infrastructure-development and welfare activities to be taken up for the common people. So, we will require setting up of more police camps and undertake developmental activities. For that, we need reinforced security,” said Inspector General (Operations) and State police spokesperson M S Bhatia.
In the first five months of 2016, the state police have claimed major success in terms of arresting or neutralising top members of Maoists cadres. Also, they have had major successes in clearing the ‘storage dumps’ of Maoists. “Unearthing their arms, ammunition dump in a certain area delivers a crippling blow to the Maoists active in the region,” said an official.
According to official figures till mid-May, the police have seized 1,721 detonators, 95 landmines or IEDs and a whopping 2,101 kg of explosives. Besides, they have arrested overall 150 Maoists, including 22 top operatives.
Numerically, however, the number of Maoist incidents till May 31 this year has been higher than the corresponding period last year – 167, as compared to 150. Also, the number of deaths has been higher 43 against 32. But the police said that, apart from the Palamu incident of January 27, when seven police personnel were killed in an IED blast, no major incidents have occurred so far.
The Maoists have in the past few months have trained their guns on people involved in development projects, often setting afire vehicles like JCBs and road rollers. A few of them are also related to non-payment of levy, an important source for Maoist funding. They also targeted people, who they felt were police informers.
“But the biggest success for us is that people are coming forward to help us. A large number of recoveries taking place now are largely due to their inputs. Our forces have managed to strike a rapport with the local population,” said Bhatia.
Additionally, the state government has also requested the Home Ministry to exempt some more categories of development works from forest clearance.
According to an official statement, the state has demanded that “linear projects” like canals and setting up of communication equipment should be exempted from forest clearance, as has been done earlier for road projects. A proposal for installation of over 900 mobile towers in the state — most of them in the LWE-affected areas — was pending with the Centre, the state has pointed out. Earlier, the state has got 665 functional mobile towers against sanctioned 782 in the first lot, after the new government took over at Centre.
Further, the state has argued that with 20 per cent of the land in the state being ‘deemed forest’, providing compensatory land was a difficult proposition. Therefore, the statement said, there should be a provision for financial compensation.