Centre plans biggest anti-Maoist operation ever

New Delhi: The centre is giving the final touches to the blueprint of a massive operation, to be launched against the Maoists in a few weeks.The option to use attack helicopters is being kept “open” but paramilitary troopers trained in jungle warfare and air force choppers for logistics support will be deployed. Sources say the operation would be the “most wide-spread” action against insurgents ever undertaken in the country.

The home ministry expects the operation to last years, but is keen to wrap it up before the UPA government ends its current term. The sources said attack helicopters would be used in the most desperate of situations and ideally the government does not want to deploy them. They said only once in independent India had the helicopters been used against insurgents, in Nagaland in the 1950s.

The ministry is in regular consultation with paramilitary, army and air force officers, the sources said. The Maoists are present in almost 200 districts and control sizeable chunks in Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. The red rebels have also made incursions into West Bengal, where their movement had been kept under check by the ruling Left Front for about three decades. The central operation will not be state-wide in scope, but involve picking out strategic Maoist points withinstates to weaken the rebels and contain their movement.

Twenty paramilitary battalions, comprising over 20,000 troops, are to be trained in jungle warfare. A select team, drawn from the BSF and the CRPF, would be sent to the army’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Warangte, Mizoram, for training. The Warangte-trained personnel would be leading the operations in key Maoist enclaves such as the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border. Also, a “special tactics wing” is being set up in the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, to provide leadership training to select troopers.

Military sources said the deployment pattern of the air force choppers — to be used for the transfer of personnel and material — would be worked out once the home ministry finalised the operational strategy.

The ministry is also speeding up the creation of units of the Cobra (Combat Battalion for Resolute Action; specialist anti-Maoist CRPF units). Two battalions are ready, six would be in place in two or three months and the targeted 10 would be ready by the yearend, the sources said. Simultaneously, the ministry has cleared the appointment of 6,666 special police officers in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as part of efforts to beef up local police capabilities.

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