NEW DELHI: A CRPF battalion deployed deep inside the Naxal hotbed of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra has been providing meals to two wedding parties for close to a month after they got stuck in the remote location due to the lockdown clamped to contain COVID-19 infection in the country, officials said on Tuesday.
Serving the wedding parties in Desaiganj Tehsil, about 60 kms from the district headquarters, is a young Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of the paramilitary force Sonu Kumar who had to cancel his leave for travel to Uttar Pradesh.
He was supposed to get married on April 5. The unique situation occurred when two wedding parties, one from neighbouring Bhandara and another from Chandrapur, reached Gadchiroli on March 23 all decked up.
Each wedding party had about 20 people. While the marriages took place, the parties got stuck in the area after the lockdown was declared the next day.
"There are two wedding parties comprising about 20 people each who are being provided meals by our unit since the last over 20 days now.
"The families of the two brides are daily wage earners and as soon as we were informed about the situation, we decided to mobilise all our resources," Prabhakar Tripathi, Commanding Officer of CRPF's 191 battalion, told PTI over phone from Gadchiroli.
As the wedding hosts were people with limited resources, they did not have ration to cater to these many people for so long.
The CRPF unit was then sent an SOS call by locals to provide food to these members and the hosts as their ration had run out.
The neighbours of the two bride families made living arrangements for the prolonged stay of the wedding party in their own houses and some common area, the CRPF Commandant said.
However, after the force sent logistics and cooks for the meals to be prepared for the wedding parties at their location in Desaiganj, the security personnel were approached by others living in the vicinity for the same help as they were not able to purchase ration for preparing two square meals a day as all work was shut.
"We are now providing meals two times a day to about 600 people, including the wedding parties, in our area of responsibility. This is the least we could do for our brothers and sisters with whom we have been living for so long," Tripathi said.
In fact, the Commandant shares enthusiastically, that ASI Sonu Kumar who was supposed to get married on April 5 is supervising this entire exercise of providing food to the needy and the wedding parties.
"We have assured Kumar that we will give him a great wedding gift when he gets married post the lockdown and coronavirus situation normalises. He has become the most eligible bachelor after dedicating himself for this noble task," Tripathi quips.
The force is also providing milk to children present in the wedding parties and the local area, he said.
The Gadchiroli district is one of the serious and sensitive Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected districts in the country and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been deployed here for conducting anti-Naxal operations.
The units or companies (about 100 personnel each) of this 191st battalion are deployed in remote locations like Etapalli (that borders the Abujhmaad area of Chhattisgarh), Hedri, Gatta (Jambia), Heliwada, Kasansur and Kotami, which are about 150-200 kms from Gadchiroli district headquarters.
A senior official of the force based in Delhi said the CRPF battalion comprising over 1,000 troops is also providing food, essential items like soap, sanitiser, face mask and detergent to the locals living around their areas after "meticulous planning of their movement" in the LWE violence affected area.
While providing food is not a major problem in these Naxal affected areas, he said, the challenge is to protect the team of cooks and other force workers who are involved in preparation of meals and distribution of essentials.
For a team of four to five cooks and helpers, a squad of 15-20 armed personnel are mobilised to ensure there is no misadventure or attack from Naxals, and to plan clandestine movement of the forces in the area, the official added.