The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) company that was slaughtered by Maoists in Dantewada on Tuesday had not undergone any intensive training at the army’s jungle warfare schools before being deployed in forests to combat the Naxals, Army chief General V K Singh said on Thursday.
Of the 82 security men who set out from their Chintalnar base camp, only seven returned alive, on stretchers.
Government sources said that the battalion — deployed in Chhattisgarh in March 2009 to assist the state government fight Maoists — missed out on the specialised jungle warfare training that was introduced later.
The army has trained nearly 39,000 security personnel in jungle warfare under a plan drawn up at Home Minister P Chidambaram’s initiative, but these men were not among them.
On Thursday, Chidambaram instituted an inquiry into the massacre that would map the sequence of events.
One of the terms of reference for the one-man inquiry is to assess the adequacy of training to the personnel.
Government officials, however, insist the problem of training was deeper and more serious in the absence of adequate training capacities at the central as well as state level.
For instance, the last training institute set up — by the Border Security Force for its personnel — was in 1966.
Government officials indicated the CRPF was marginally better placed but was yet to transform itself completely from a central police force into a counter-insurgency force.
This is one reason why the home ministry is planning to earmark dedicated units within the force to be deployed on counter-insurgency duties.
General Singh suggested there were other problems as well.
"We do not get homogeneous entities for training. The problem is a company does not come as a company and neither is it deployed as a unit," he said.
Andhra Pradesh’s Greyhounds also train their commandos in groups of 18, who are later deployed as a group.
"Everyone knows what their particular task is, whose back they have to watch and who will watch theirs. This isn’t the case with us," admitted a senior government official.
But excessive deployment of central forces – that should have been done by the state police – however, took a toll on their training plans.
For instance, the Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal recently pushed the Centre into agreeing to pull out six companies that were on training and recuperation break to deal with the possible damage power utility employees unions who might protest the state’s power privatisation plans.
The deployment of National Security Guard commandos to maintain inflated egos of politicians was another example.
"Recently when the home ministry rotated the Black Cat commandos for some politicians, one of them vehemently insisted on retaining one particular set, arguing that he had trained them to take care of his farms," a senior home ministry official said.