There has been a serious decline in the quality of anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh in the last two years, a review of the CRPF's Chhattisgarh-based units has revealed, according to The Indian Express.
Reason? The officers at the level of the commandant and second-in-command are either avoiding the operations or aren't actively participating.
However, in response to the report, a senior officer told The Quint, “It’s not that officers aren’t involved in the operations, but there might be some pullback due to the lack of intelligence. If there is solid intelligence, everybody is confident and ready to go. However, due to lack of intel, nobody wants to take the blame for the casualties, hence there is less involvement”.
According to the Union government's data, Chhattisgarh reported the highest number of Naxal incidents between 2018 and 2020. The state also reported the highest number of security personnel martyred during the same time – 55 in 2018, 22 in 2019, and 36 in 2020.
According to the state police records, the cumulative Naxal attacks and police operations year-wise were 526 in 2018, 327 in 2019, and 241 in 2020. As many as 103 police personnel lost their lives in the three years.
Weak Intel, Not Lack of Involvement of Officers
“Every commander has his way of working and planning operations. Some take on the responsibility and actively participate in the operations while others let the team decide. However, there is still a lack of coordination. The units don’t function as a single entity while on ops and the commanders are to be blamed for this. There have been efforts in the past to centralise the operation strategy, allowing the units to function as one entity but it wasn’t successful. Every commander wants to plan ops their way,” said an officer on the condition of anonymity.
The review further adds that there has been a decline in the setting up of LUPs (lying up positions), which are tactical sites identified and set up for the units to stop and rest for a brief period during operations.
“The CRPF’s main job is to function as road opening party (ROP) or to carry out area domination exercises around their camps. There is an unsaid rule about involving the CRPF in Bastar. Nobody wants a force that is unwilling to go in and fight so they aren’t engaged but used mainly for ROPs. At the same time, CoBRA jawans are highly active and have the mindset ready for the operations,” he added.
In the review report sent by the CRPF headquarters to its Chhattisgarh units, it laid down specific guidelines to be followed by the units. The guidelines mentioned that all operations must be led by gazetted officers; and that the troops should engage in operations for at least 15 days in a month. The guideline further noted that every commandant, 2IC, deputy commandant, and every senior officer has to lead at least three operations and LUPs in a month.
“We have got the guidelines from our headquarters and we will comply with them. However, there is a lack of motivation owing to weak intel and that is a serious reason for commanding officers to not actively participate in the ops. There is no guarantee what we will find inside the forests – and that’s a risk only a few are willing to take,” said another officer.