After losing 34 policemen in four months, Maharashtra police have realised its anti-Naxal operations need an overhaul.
The state police have proposed drastic changes to the state government to strengthen its offensive in the Naxal-hit areas of Gadchiroli, Chandrapur, Gondia and Bhandara in Vidarbha region.
The suggestions came out of a series of meetings convened after 16 policemen, including five women constables, were ambushed and killed near Tavitola village on May 21.
Among other things, the state is considering moving the specialised Anti-Naxal Operations unit (ANO) to Gadchiroli from Nagpur and unifying the operations under a single Command and Control Centre.
DGP SS Virk said the plans were under process. He, however, refused to elaborate, saying they were at the discussion stage.
“The shifting of the ANO is aimed at restructuring (the system) to add sting to the operations,” said Virk. “Experience says that if the force is on the spot and you launch operations from within the field, the results are better.”
The police have made a series of suggestions — increasing manpower, filling up vacancies, effecting transfers on time and infusing fresh blood into the operations. It seeks to strengthen field operations through a wider network of outposts.
Home Minister Jayant Patil said the government has decided to set up a dedicated force of two or three battalions and seek eight to 10 battalions of central paramilitary forces, which will be stationed in the region.
According to Virk, first of the changes are likely to be made in three to four days. Additional DGP (ANO) Pankaj Gupta refused to comment. When asked if the ANO had lost its sting, he said: “We are taking it up.”
The ANO currently operates out of Nagpur, 180 km from Gadchiroli and 152 km from Chandrapur, two of the most affected areas in the state.
The first attack of the year took place in February 2009. Fifteen policemen, who had gone to conduct a panchnama (examination of a crime scene in the presence of five witnesses) of an incident of arson in Markegaon village, 45 km from Dhanora, were killed after a two-hour gunbattle with Naxals.
Three policemen were killed in an attack in Mungner in April 2009. Earlier, in October 2008, four policemen were killed when Naxals ambushed a patrol team near Karepalli village.
According to data available with the Maharashtra government, at least 74 policemen and 78 civilians have been killed in Naxal-related violence in the state since 2004.