Kolkata: Weak intelligence and communication networks, lack of alertness, and poor security made the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp at Silda in West Bengal a sitting duck for Maoist attacks, say security experts.
Two days after the daring Maoist attack on the West Midnapore district camp left 24 EFR personnel and a civilian dead, questions were being asked about the role of the camp commandant and the top officials responsible for planning the security details.
"It is not a failure of the jawans. The question that should be asked is why there was no fencing around the camp? And why there was no check post or adequate number of well-armed guards?" asked retired intelligence chief of West Bengal police Amiya Samanta.
"Those responsible for the planning should take the blame. The top officials should have visited the camp earlier to see the conditions in which the 50 jawans lived. Proper electricity and putting up adequate number of check posts are the basic infrastructural and security requirements," Samanta told a news agency.
"It`s a leadership failure. The camp was set up in a sensitive area, yet even the normal security measures were not there," he said.
Commenting on the lack of coordination, he said the force should have been alerted when the authorities received inputs on chances of a terrorist attack and people gathering in areas close to the camp.
"They should have set up a proper communication and intelligence network. Gathering inputs is one thing, and using it to pre-empt such actions on the part of the enemy is another. For this, you need a good communication network."
"But the intelligence network was weak. Plus, there was no coordination between the intelligence agencies and the forces," Samanta said.
He said the officers had also failed to build a network of common people who would have supplied information.
"We are not working in enemy territory. We are in our own territory. There should have been a proper network of commoners for receiving intelligence," he said.
Pointing to the fact that the EFR troopers were not locals of Silda, Samanta said: "Some of them may not even know the local language. So local officers should be there. They can collect information and guide the forces."
Chayan Mukherjee, a retired additional director general of the state police, wondered how so many Maoists could gather at a particular spot in the daytime.
"I don`t know how so many of the ultras could gather there. Was there any alert issued? What is more important is that there was no counter attack though the forces got two-three hours for it," Mukherjee, also a former top officer of the police intelligence wing, told the agency.
However, he did not agree that the choice of the site for the camp was wrong. "It is strategically connected to Bankura, Binpur and Barikul. Maoists had also killed people in the area."
But he felt the officers should have conducted a recce of the camp and enhanced its protection.
Another former senior police officer said that the commandant of the camp should have taken up the issue of his men`s security with the higher officers.