The stretch of road on which Naxals attacked the Congress convoy Saturday had not been sanitised because of a shortage of personnel,senior CRPF officials in Pune and Bastar told The Indian Express Monday. The road opening party (ROP) did not go through,they said.
The officials said that the stretch of road is a dead zone so far as mobile connectivity is concerned. There are no signals in this patch,they said,and added that Maoists had been snatching mobile phones of travellers to prevent them from informing security agencies of their planned operation.
There are two companies of CRPF in this area. One company is stationed 10 km from the attack spot; the other is stationed 14 km away in the other direction. Because of limitations of strength,these CRPF companies sanitise the road for only up to five km from their bases. The stretch in which the ambush took place was not sanitised, a CRPF official in Jagdalpur said on condition of anonymity. Our teams had passed that zone about 90 minutes before the attack,but found nothing suspicious. But people told us later that their mobile phones had been seized by those who laid the ambush, the officer added.
According to these officials,the standard operating procedure lays down that the local police must initiate requisition for the ROP. They did this,and the CRPF did have the full programme of the Parivartan rally,they said.
But sanitisation was not done. With our current manpower,there was no way we could have sanitised the entire route of the convoy. We require at least five companies to be able to sanitise the area completely, said the officer.
Senior officials said that 34 per cent of the CRPFs 3 lakh personnel are committed to Naxal-hit areas. Chhattisgarh has three battalions which,the officials complained,is only about a third of the ideal strength.
Another CRPF official who has served in Naxal-affected areas for over 15 years and is currently posted in Pune said,Another major drawback of CRPF in Naxal areas is the lack of intelligence gathering mechanisms within the organization. The thin density of CRPF formations does not allow us to develop a deployment pattern. We do not have the strength to hold the area of operation.