CRPF chief hails West Bengal's help in anti-Maoist fight



New Delhi: In a praise for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, India's key anti-Maoist force's chief Friday said her was one of the states where security and development initiatives had witnessed considerable success in the fight against Left-wing extremism.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Director General K Vijay Kumar, who retires from service this weekend after heading the force for two years, told reporters here that the hearts and minds of people in the nation's 13 Maoist-affected states had to be won by the government and security forces.

He said security and development initiatives had "almost turned around" in these violence-hit states in recent years, including in West Bengal, with the help of "political backing" and a lot of development work has been completed here.

"We have had considerable success in West Bengal. Nine out of ten things are getting done (in the state)," Vijay Kumar said.

Vijay Kumar, who was brought from his home cadre in Tamil Nadu to head the nation's largest paramilitary force with nearly 300,000 personnel, said there were a few challenges that still remained.

The CRPF chief had in 2004 led Tamil Nadu's Special Task Force that ultimately killed sandalwood smuggler Veerappan in an encounter in the Satyamangalam forest, bordering Karnataka.

He said the force has a "lot of work" to accomplish in the "difficult and complex" southern areas of Chhattisgarh and in Odisha around Malkangiri district, which have a difficult terrain and large activity of armed Maoist cadres.

"We have to persevere. The Indian state has to be patient. The security forces have to be competent and the development has to be rapid. With all these, I hope things will happen. We need to win over the people...win their minds and hearts," he said.

Vijay Kumar said the CRPF has already wrested the control of Saranda area in Jharkhand by following the two-pronged government policy of simultaneous security and development works.

It is now working extensively to take full control of Burra Pahad in Rohtas district and Gaaru in Lathehar in the state, he said.

Gaya and Jamui in Bihar and Sonebhadra and Chandoli in Uttar Pradesh were named by him as areas which will see development in the near future.

The CRPF chief said his force was "slowly and steadily" reducing its numbers in Jammu and Kashmir.

"Our footprints are reducing. It is a solid and positive indicator," he said to a question on the force bringing down its presence in the border state.

The CRPF now has only 66 battalions of 1,000 men each in the insurgency-hit state, down from the 70 battalions it once had there.

IANS