With the naxal insurgency taking on deadly new proportions, India’s premier paramilitary troubleshooters are set to become the frontline anti-maoist fighting force.
The government is working on a plan to add 38 new battalions — or more than 35,000 men and women — to the 60-year-old Central Reserve Police Force, which is already the country’s largest paramilitary force with 2.7 lakh personnel and is bigger than the armies of many countries.
The plan also includes a nation-wide intelligence network for the CRPF — an acronym that also is translated by its own overworked, always-on-the-move, cadre as “Chalte Raho Pyare.” It would add more responsibility and powers to the paramilitary force to fight naxals, if the naxal-affected states come on board.
“The Union Home Ministry is giving final touches to the plan,” CRPF Director General A.S. Gill told Hindustan Times.
His comments came as home minister P. Chidambaram told parliament on Wednesday that the government would soon evolve a comprehensive strategy to fight naxals.
The move coincides with a spike in naxal attacks, which have already claimed lives of at least 249 security personnel in the past six months — a figure that tops similar casualties in all of last year and is eight times the number of soldiers killed by insurgents in J&K this year.
“For many years we did not properly assess the threat posed by Left-wing extremism. We under-estimated the challenge and in the meanwhile they (Naxalites) extended their influence,” Chidambaram told Parliament on Wednesday. “Today they (Naxalites) pose a grave challenge ... We are preparing to taken on the challenge. Details cannot be disclosed now.”
He said the government has appointed a special military adviser and will convene a meeting of CMs of naxal-affected states next month.
The naxals, who have a presence in more than 150 districts across nine states, have stepped up attacks in recent months. Earlier this week they ambushed a police convoy, killing nearly 40 people, in Chhattisgarh — a stronghold for the rebels who believe in revolutionary warfare.
Chidambaram did not give details of the government’s plan.
“For the first time, the CRPF will be setting up its own intelligence network at the national level,” Gill said, adding it will also have more bomb disposal squads. “But we will have to wait for it to come out.”
The government has yet to take a final view in the matter, he said.
Since law and order is a state issue, consultation is on with the states on what role and powers could be given to the paramilitary force to carry out the anti-Naxal operations. Some states have already expressed reservations on certain provisions to be incorporated in the plan.