Govt to put 7,000 more jawan in Naxal areas

NEW DELHI: As Maoist threat has put on hold several development works in Naxal-infested areas across the country, the Centre has sanctioned seven Battalions – over 7,000 personnel – of ‘specialized’ force, who will execute basic infrastructure projects, including construction of roads, under their protection in the Red Zone. States will soon start the process of raising the ‘force’.

The new force – called Specialized India Reserve Battalions (SIRBs) – will have two components\units. While one unit will have engineers and technical staff, another will consist of security personnel.

Out of seven SIRBs, two have been sanctioned for Chhattisgarh – the worst Maoist-hit state – while, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Maharashtra will raise one Battalion each over the next three months. The states will try to recruit as many locals\tribals as possible for raising the new force, mainly in security wing.

“Fund has also been released for this purpose for these five states. Home ministry will sanction three more Battalions of specialized force for the states in due course,” said a senior official, adding the Cabinet Committee on Security had in July approved the proposal to raise 10 SIRBs.

The need for such a force was felt for long as the Maoists had been frustrating government’s attempt to create basic infrastructure in Red Zone by repeatedly targeting development works and economic installations.

The new specialized force would be different from existing 37 IRBs (37,000 personnel) in Naxal-affected states. Unlike IRBs that only comprise security personnel, the SIRBs will have engineers and technicians in one unit of the Battalions. They will be responsible for laying basic infrastructure projects with the help of security being provided by the other unit.

The security unit of the new force will accompany its technical\engineering staff, wherever they will be engaged in development works. The newly-raised Battalions will also provide security to local contractors for executing their works.

Home ministry statistics shows that the Maoists had attacked 1,241 ‘economic targets’ – including 465 roads – between 2007 and 2011, damaging railway property, telephone exchanges\towers, electricity transmission lines, power plants, roads and mines across nine states.

Besides, the ultras of the banned CPI (Maoist) had also targeted 188 railway property, including stations, crossings and tracks; equal number of school buildings; 187 telephone exchanges\towers; 69 panchayat bhawans; 45 electricity transmission lines; 30 mines; nine power plants and 60 other ‘economic targets’ like solar plates, cement plant and other manufacturing\industrial production units over the past four years.

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