State's arms apathy fuels rising in ranks (India)

July 19: Battered and bruised in the face of unabated Maoist strikes, state policemen today trained guns on the Naveen Patnaik government for ignoring their long-standing demands for better equipment and infrastructure to combat rebels.


Referring to the slaughter of Koida sub-inspector Ajit Bardhan in the jungles of Jharbeda recently, Orissa Police Association (OPA) secretary Sunil Mohanty said that had the government not turned deaf ears to the demand to arm the forces with sophisticated weapons, Maoists would have never pulled off the operation. "Government inaction has armed the rebels," he said.
The OPA is a body representing more than 7,000 inspectors and sub-inspectors. OPA president S.N. Sharma seconded Mohanty. "Maoists orchestrate attacks taking full advantage of dense forests and hilly terrain. Helicopters for surveillance in red zones top our wish list. We need choppers both for combing and rescue operations. The state must act now," he said. "That the body of sub-inspector Bardhan could be retrieved after 36 hours certainly calls for introspection," he added.
The resentment within the ranks is not unwarranted.
This year alone, 11 state police personnel, the same number of CISF jawans and a CRPF man were killed in Maoist attacks in the state. While the CISF personnel died protecting the bauxite mines at Damanjodi in Koraput on April 12, nine state police jawans were blown up by a landmine at Palur in the same district on June 18. The rebels had also targeted two police stations and an outpost in Koraput on June 7.
Sub-inspector Bardhan was abducted on July 16 while he was escorting a truckload of explosives to a factory near Rourkela. His bullet-riddled body was found a day later. Bardhan's last rites were performed today with full state honour.
The Opposition, too, mounted pressure on the government for its ambivalent attitude towards policemen who "are nothing but sitting ducks" in the absence of adequate firepower and stricter anti-Maoist policies. "The government has failed miserably in drafting strong weapon policies to battle rebels," said leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh.
Singh pointed out that only junior officers and paramilitary jawans were made scapegoats in the state.
Padmanav Behera, the president of Orissa Havildar and Constable Federation, which has 40,000 members, said: "We face Maoist bullets and all we get is honour posthumously. We need weapon support instead of pep talk or wreaths," he said.
The OPA reiterated its demand for at least two helicopters for combing and rescue operations. The association has decided to hold an emergency executive body meeting in the last week of this month to chalk out their future course of action.
Earlier this month, a Committee of the Orissa Assembly had in its report observed: "The state police force urgently requires modern arms and other state-of-the-art equipment to face the heavily armed Left-wing extremists and maintain law and order in an increasingly challenging and changing environment".
In a bid to empower the force, the standing committee of the home department, headed by Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik, had also recommended bullet-proof jackets, helmets and sophisticated weapons like Glock pistols, compact assaut rifles, under-barrel grenade launchers and rocket launchers. It had also recommended that at least Rs 6.5 crore be given to the home department for procuring the weapons.
Director-general of police M.M. Praharaj said they were taking steps to equip policemen with sophisticated arms. He claimed the Centre had also been requested to provide a helicopter for combing and rescue operations.

Von:, 20.07.2009

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