Armoured personnel carriers, called mine protected vehicles (MPV), used by Chhattisgarh police are a boon as well as a bane in the heavily-mined jungle tracks of the state’s Maoist-affected areas, say counter-insurgency experts.
The MPVs that roll out from a government ordnance factory can carry 12-13 personnel and have a base designed to dissipate the impact of a blast towards its sides. But they are no match for an improvised explosive device (IED) rigged with 50kg of RDX.
In an explosion of such magnitude, the MPV flies up in the air and kills personnel inside — as it happened when one such MPV carrying a dozen Chhattisgarh Armed Force personnel came under a Maoist-planted IED in Dantewada on Monday.
Seven men were pulled out alive of the mangled MPV but five colleagues were not so lucky. The IED was fitted with over 50kg of explosives, sources said.
“An MPV makes an attractive target for the Maoists. It can protect only against conventional mines used along the international border in Rajasthan and Punjab. But it can’t withstand the challenge in Chhattisgarh where rebels use huge explosives in their IEDs,” said Brigadier (retired) BK Ponwar, an instructor in Kanker’s jungle warfare college.
Former state DGP Vishwaranjan agrees. “MPVs are not effective if explosives of 20kg or more are used. It can be very effective against bullets but not a heavy explosion.”
The Dantewada incident raised questions if an MPV should be used at all in inhospitable areas where Maoists can plant IEDs at will.
Some of the wounded personnel said shockwaves from the powerful blast were the main killer.
“None of the men would have come out alive had it not been an MPV. At least seven were saved,” said additional DGP (anti-Maoist operation) RK Vij. Chhattisgarh has over two dozen anti-landmine vehicles that are kitted with seatbelts, helmets and other safety measures to minimise injuries. The CRPF has officially discontinued using MPVs since 2012.