NEW DELHI: A CRPF convoy will not have more than 40 vehicles at any point of time, the paramilitary force has decided following the Pulwama terror attack in which at least 40 of its jawans were killed. According to the new standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the CRPF, its convoys moving to and from the Kashmir valley will be commandeered by an SP-rank officer from now on.
All possible efforts will be made to keep the number of vehicles in a motorcade to 10-20 for effective management, sources said. During the Pulwama attack on February 14, 78 vehicles were moving in a convoy. The fifth bus in the motorcade was targeted by a Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber who detonated his explosives-laden SUV near it on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. On Saturday, a CRPF convoy on the same highway was targeted at Banihal by a car bomb. There were no casualties.
Earlier, the convoy used to be led by a junior assistant commandant-rank (assistant SP) officer instead of an SP-rank officer. Sources said the change has been made to ensure the convoy is led by an experienced officer as the Kashmir Valley is operationally sensitive due to terrorist threats. The new convoy commander will now directly report to and coordinate with one of the three CRPF deputy inspector generals (operations) based in Kashmir.
During the Pulwama attack, the over 2,500 personnel strength convoy was being commanded by an AC-rank officer and all 39 personnel in the ill-fated bus and a sub-officer stationed on the ground, as part of a road sanitisation party, were killed in the deadly blast.
The force undertook a huge and time-taking task of identifying the bodies of its slain personnel as the blast had blown the bus and its occupants to smithereens making it difficult to identify the mortal remains as it is understood that some men changed their vehicles when the convoy last halted.
It has, sources said, hence been decided that all those who are allotted a seat in the vehicle will scrupulously stick to the seating plan and re-board the same bus or truck after the convoy resumes post a refreshment break.
A sub-officer in the rank of an Inspector or a Sub-Inspector will be responsible for ensuring that the passenger manifest of each vehicle remains intact, they said.
The convoys will also have a changed strategy of having bullet-proof mobile bunkers which are always deployed at frequent gaps in the motorcade for any armed offensive or defensive action in case of an attack.
Also, each vehicle in the convoy will have armed security personnel as usual, but their numbers and position will be changed dynamically and as per operational requirements, they said.
The CRPF, designated lead force for internal security duties and anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir, is also mulling to create a new full-fledged transit facility for its troops in Udhampur that will reduce by about 70 km, the distance between Jammu and Srinagar.
The present transit camp is in Jammu and it takes about 10-12 hours for convoys to cover about 300 km between these locations.
A transit facility in Udhampur will reduce the time taken and the risk involved in running convoys, which cannot be done away with completely despite the government recently allowing all personnel to take a flight to Srinagar from either Jammu or Delhi, they said.
The around three lakh personnel strength force has about 65 battalions or about 70,000 personnel deployed in the Kashmir Valley and has two sectors, Kashmir and Kashmir operations, headed by two Inspector General rank officers.
CRPF Director General R R Bhatnagar had last week told the news agency that they are going to procure a new fleet of mine protected vehicles, small 30-seater buses and provide more partial armour to its troop carrying buses to ensure safety of jawans post the Pulwama attack, the worst in the valley on security forces in over three decades.
(with PTI inputs)