Rajnath Singh, CMs of 10 Naxal-hit states to brainstorm on ways to tackle menace on Monday

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and chief ministers of 10 Maoist violence-hit states will brainstorm on Monday over ways to tackle the menance, a fortnight after 25 CRPF men were massacred by underground guerrillas in Chhattisgarh's Sukma.

PTI| Last Updated: May 08, 2017, 00:31 AM IST
Rajnath Singh, CMs of 10 Naxal-hit states to brainstorm on ways to tackle menace on Monday

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and chief ministers of 10 Maoist violence-hit states will brainstorm on Monday over ways to tackle the menance, a fortnight after 25 CRPF men were massacred by underground guerrillas in Chhattisgarh's Sukma.

Ahead of the crucial meeting, the strategic command headquarters of CRPF's anti-Naxal operations was shifted from Kolkata to Chhattisgarh.

The conclave would discuss ways to revamp intelligence gathering mechanism, take a close look at ongoing operations against Naxalites, identify problem areas and devise ways to minimise casualties among the security forces, a home ministry official said today.

Altogether 37 CRPF personnel have been killed by Naxalites in the worst-hit Chhattisgarh in less than two months.

The April 24 assault on a CRPF road opening party that claimed lives of 25 personnel was the deadliest since the April 2010 attack in Dantewada, also in Chhattisgarh, in which 76 personnel were slain.

Chief ministers of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have been invited to meeting which would be chaired by Singh.

District magistrates and superintendents of police of 35 worst-hit districts, besides heads of paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies will attend the meeting.

On top of the agenda will be the issue of re-calibrating the anti-Naxal strategy to make it more effective, and to minimise casualties, the official said.

The home minister has asked security officials to look for out-of-the box solutions to the problem of successive attacks by Naxalites on security personnel providing protection for road repair or development work in the troubled areas.

Road construction and other development activities in the affected areas will also be discussed. Ways to cut down on time spent on laying roads are also likely to be discussed. Road opening parties of central paramilitary forces have repeatedly come under savage assault by Naxalites in the past.

Home ministry sources said currently 90 per cent of Maoist activity is limited to 35 districts, though the ultra- Left guerrillas have pockets of influence in 68 districts in 10 states.

Meanwhile, in a move to shore up its capabilities to tackle Maoist violence, the CRPF has ordered "immediate" shifting of the command headquarters of central zone of the force from Kolkata to Raipur.

The move comes roughly seven years after it was shifted from Raipur to Kolkata due to logistical and connectivity issues.

Official sources said the newly appointed CRPF Director General Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar has been asked to ensure that the command begins functioning from Raipur before the high-level meeting of Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-hit states here tomorrow.

After the order was issued on May 4, CRPF ADG (central zone) Kuldeep Singh was air-dashed to Raipur and he took charge of the command on Friday.

The central zone, an operational field formation, was set up on August 7, 2009, and was tasked with the responsibility of deployment of CRPF troops in the entire 'red belt' of states hit by Naxalite violence including West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has been largely free from Naxalite violence in the last few years.

It was moved to Kolkata in July 2010 after the Dantewada attack exposed the problem of poor rail and air connectivity. 75 CRPF personnel and a constable of Chhattisgarh police were massacred by Maoist guerrillas on April 6.

"The idea is to base the Naxal command headquarter where the exact fight and the LWE challenge is.

"The ministry felt that having this strategic office, headed by an ADG rank officer, in far off Kolkata was not serving the purpose of strategising quick, intelligence-based and coordinated offensives against Naxals right where the guerrillas are posing the biggest threat to internal security of the country," a senior officer said.

The command office has been tasked with strategizing on launching joint operations with the Indian Air Force, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the state police along the southern tip of Bastar in Chhattisgarh where its border meets with Odisha, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, all of which are affected by Maoist violence. Maoist rebels quickly move to other states after launching an attack in one.

Bhatnagar oversaw the quick activation of the command in Raipur after he attended a meeting of the Unified Command on May 5 which was chaired by Chief Minister Raman Singh.

Meanwhile, a home ministry statement said a "holistic" review of the situation will be undertaken covering a wide canvas of security and development issues, particularly infrastructure building.

The meeting will focus on devising new strategies to maintain the momentum achieved in 2016, notwithstanding a couple of incidents, it said.

The meeting will discuss operational issues like the role of states in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) operations, raising, employment and deployment of India Reserve (IR) battalions by recruiting local youth and Special India Reserve Battalion (SIRB), capacity building and intelligence issues like vacancies in state police forces, besides capacity building of state intelligence units.

Development issues will also be discussed with a view to ensuring rapid development of LWE-affected areas, the statement said.