NEW DELHI: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the lead anti-Naxal force of the Centre is facing acute shortage of Mine-Protected Vehicles (MPVs) to carry jawans for operations in the affected States where they are intermittently hit by ultra-Left extremists through IEDs like the one in Sukma last week where 12 paramilitary personnel were killed on Saturday.
Out of the sanctioned over 600 MPVs, the holding of the specialised vehicles is just 122 out of which about a dozen have been shifted to Jammu and Kashmir where the CRPF apprehends Naxal-style IED attacks this summer.
The Centre had sanctioned acquisition of 350 MPVs for the CRPF way back in 2010 but only 122 have been acquired so far. Officials from the ground said shifting priorities of the CRPF chiefs and slow pace of processing of proposals by the Union Home Ministry had resulted in the delay of purchase of these vehicles.
“While there has been delay in acquisition of the MPVs, the ultras have increased the capacity of their IEDs to blast even the MPVs. However, Ordnance Factory Board has significantly improved the quality of the hull and the modern MPVs can withstand more than double the capacity of the IEDs fabricated by the Naxals,” a senior Home Ministry official said.
After the IED blast in Sukma on Saturday on a road opening party of the CRPF, the lone MPV available near the camp was rushed to evacuate the injured jawans and the bodies of those killed, an official from Chhattisgarh said.
Sources the lone MPV available in Bheji camp of CRPF came to the rescue of 4 critically injured CRPF men in Sukma, out of which one jawan later succumbed to his injuries probably due to delay in evacuation.
“Besides carrying jawans for operations, the MPVs also provide armoured protection cover and act as a mobile bunker and as an arnoured ambulance amidst heavy ambush and firing which always follows after the IED blast* said a CRPF jawan who has served in Naxal-affected areas.
"Road construction is a routine duty and thus movement is very much predictable and known to the enemy. In such a situation, keeping an MPV in a tactical position once the road is sanitized can add much required teeth to our operational capabilities." said an officer posted in south Chhatisgarh and engaged in ROP/road construction security since last 2 years.
The MPVs are crucial for safe transportation of troops in Naxal-hit areas as the ultras often plant IEDs underneath the road to blast the security forces’ vehicles.
“The jawans often place their bullet-proof jackets on the seats of the ordinary vehicles to minimise the impact of the Improvised Explosive Devices,” the official elaborated on how the jawans have to make do without MPVs in Chhattisdgarh which the worst affected State hit by Naxalism.
In Sukma, the Naxals ambushed the Road Opening Party and blasted an IED in which 12 jawans were killed and four others injured.
“Lack of long-term planning for modernisation, consistency in policy and the inability to learn lessons from the past incidents is a major problem being faced by the CRPF due to which the Naxals continue to hit the security forces time and again,” rued another official.
More Naxal attacks are likely in Chhattisgarh as the ultras have raised Bastar Tiger Battalion to counter the tribal-dominated Bastariya Battalions of the CRPF deployed in the State.
According to Intelligence reports with the Union Home Ministry, the Naxals continue to have dominating edge in Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada and Narayanpur areas of the State. The ultras are also active in certain pockets of Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
According to documents with the Express, the Jammu and Kashmir Sector of the CRPF has warned that the terror groups in the Valley will carry out IED blasts on the security forces in large numbers and have underscored the need for more MPVs.
The J & K Sector of the CRPF also has just about a dozen MPVs which way below the required numbers, an official from Srinagar said, adding the Force is also facing shortage of bullet-proof vehicles including buses and ambulances in the Valley.