The largest central force deployed for anti-Maoist operations is facing teething problems with its canines.
Unable to bear the heat and rough terrain in most areas affected by Left Wing Extremism,most of the 350 dogs Labradors,Alsatians and Belgian Malinois have had health issues such as dehydration and skin diseases. Some have even died.
To tide over the crisis,the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is in the process of procuring 30 dog vans,which will also double up as ambulances for canines who need immediate medical help in states such as Chhattisgarh,Jharkhand and Orissa.
For now,the elite CoBRA commandos of the CRPF have stopped taking the dogs for long operations. While the Labradors and Alsatians were already deployed in these areas,the CRPF sent Belgian Malinois for jungle operations last year. Currently,50 Malinois dogs are deployed. CRPF officials claim they can walk up to 20 km without taking a break,detect improvised explosive devices,and sniff out suspects holed up in a room.
We have stopped taking the dogs for long-range patrolling or even during operations. They are turning out to be a liability if they fall ill,a person has to stay back to take care of them; we cannot leave them and proceed. These are high risk areas. More than an advantage,it is turning out to be the opposite, said a senior officer.
An officer said the dogs were unable to walk beyond four-five km even on smooth terrain.
If its uneven terrain,they cannot even walk two-three km. In the absence of any vehicles,we have to carry them, said the officer.
It is impossible to locate a veterinarian in these areas. If a dog falls ill,we either make elaborate arrangements to send it to the nearest urban centre or wait for help to arrive. In both cases,a lot of time is wasted, he added.
To tackle the problem,the new dog vans will come fitted with basic medical care instruments. We have got sanction from the concerned authorities to purchase the ambulance vans,but we are waiting for funds now, said Pankaj Kumar Singh,IG (provisioning),CRPF.
To improve their efficiency,the officials are also planning to deploy dogs in pairs so they dont feel lonely.