The home ministry has moved the Union Cabinet for deploying Rashtriya Rifles units and inducting additional helicopters for logistics in Naxal-affected areas of the country particularly Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. Till date, Rashtriya Rifles (RR), which has Indian Army troops on deputation and functions under the defence ministry, is only restricted to counter-insurgency duties in Jammu and Kashmir.
Government sources said that with the Left-wing extremism now affecting more than 155 districts and showing signs of spreading to north-east and southern states of Karnataka, home minister P Chidambaram has proposed that RR units should be deployed for “static” duties in order to dominate the area, enthuse confidence among the local population and keep Maoists at bay.
“RR personnel will not take part in the operations but their mere presence and activity will be a confidence-building measure. Their work ethos and training will act as a force multiplier for central paramilitary forces (CPMFs) involved in anti-Naxalite duties in areas like Abujhmad forests in southern Chhattisgarh,” said a senior official.
The home ministry proposal also seeks additional helicopters for deploying and supplying CPMFs in remote areas of Central India.
While North Block wants to augment its anti-Naxal capacities through hiring of air platforms in the interregnum, it is looking to the defence ministry and Indian Army to move some RR units from J&K to Naxal-hit areas and offer CPMFs as replacement in the Valley.
The army, however, is at slight variance with the home ministry proposal as it does not want to disturb the RR counter-insurgency grid in Jammu and Kashmir.
Instead, it is suggesting to the government that as the total sanction for RR battalions is 100 and only 63 have been raised and deployed in J&K, additional battalions up to 37 in number could be raised for Naxal areas as and when required.
The new RR units would supplement nearly 80 CPMF battalions already deployed.
While the army is preparing for any contingency in Naxal-dominated areas, it has already deployed a training brigade between Kondagoan west and Narayanpur in Chhattisgarh bordering Abujhmad forests.
While 71 Brigade of the Bareilly division trained CPMF troopers in jungle warfare till August this year, now 167 Brigade has been inducted to train new inductees in counter-insurgency missions.