The Sukma attack by the CPI (Maoists), killing nine CRPF personnel on Tuesday, has come as a wake up call for the government to check the free flow of explosives to the banned outfit in states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
According to data available with the Union home ministry, two third of casualties faced by security forces in Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas is due to IED explosions.
“Where do you think the Naxals are getting their explosives supply from? Unlike insurgencies in other parts of the country, the supply of explosives and arms and ammunition in the Left-Wing Extremism affected areas is not coming from across the border. It is being supplied to them locally. The mining industries operating in the area and the illegal mining happening in some other parts are being used by the Maoists to procure explosives in huge quantities. These supply chains have to be held accountable,'' said former CRPF DG Dilip Trivedi.
According to him, the IEDs threat posed by Maoists can only be countered if the root of the problem is effectively tackled. Intelligence reports have, time and again, indicated links between mining mafia and the outlaws in LWE affected states, with the former helping the extremists to procure huge amount of explosive materials which are then used to carry out IED blasts, targeting security forces. Sadly, this has been an issue that has plagued the security forces deployed in the Naxal hotbeds for nearly a decade now, and experts say the problem has only become worse.
The unregulated supply of explosives and electronic detonators to Maoists reflects the inability of both the Central and state governments to implement the long pending decisions taken to barcode the detonators, check their supply and sale as well as enforce strict regulations for the mining industries which are spread across the LWE affected states.
In 2014, Trivedi had raised the issue with the Union home ministry, and several meetings were held on the issue. Home ministry sources said the easy availability of detonators, especially among mining industries, is an equally bigger concern as the sale of ammonium nitrate which goes unmonitored in many parts of the country.
Sources revealed that the ministry had asked the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) to initiate steps to barcode detonators to check their misuse. Without such a step, it is impossible to determine from where the detonator has been sourced and details of the manufacturer and the buyer. The DIPP had argued that this will increase the price of the detonators manifold. Earlier, the DIPP had also started barcoding packets of ammonium nitrate, but the exercise had not been fruitful since only the packets can be barcoded.
Sources privy to the discussions said unless the state governments, ministries concerned and the departments involved tackle the issue promptly and effectively, the anti-Naxal forces will continue to get hit.
Trivedi said it is easy to blame the security forces for not following standard operating procedures when they carry out ROP (road opening party) exercises, but it is a fact that the security personnel are the ones who are at the receiving end. ''We are serious in handling the issue of proliferation of IEDs, but is it enough that the CRPF is serious? I have been flagging this issue for so long,'' he said.
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In the last few years, the security forces have successfully detected several IEDs, but occasionally, an undetected mine can cause fatalities like the one that was witnessed in Sukma on Tuesday.
It may be recalled that the government had drawn up an extensive anti-Naxal action plan in 2014 which entailed an ambitious proposal to procure land mine detectors, similar to those used by the US forces in Afghanistan. The DRDO had also been roped in to help with their expertise in tackling the IED threat. But, the situation on the ground more or less remains the same.
CRPF officials in Sukma said there are limitations in the areas in which the forces are deployed, with terrains that make it near impossible for them to detect the mines. Moreover, some of these landmines have been laid months and years ago, and go undetected. Mine Protected Vehicles, which are used by the forces, also have their limitations, they said.
“The huge amount of explosives used in Sukma attack blew up the vehicle so badly. We cannot say what was the exact quantity of the explosive used, but it was definitely in enormous quantity. The MPVs also have their limitations,'' the official said.
CRPF officials pointed out that earlier the modus operandi adopted by the Maoists was to loot weapons from the security forces and attack police stations for the same. After successive attacks and loss of lives of security forces, the government had decided to fortify police stations and camps of central security forces. Once this was done, the incidents of looting weapons came down and related attacks on security forces were also brought down as Maoists started facing a shortage of weapons.
However, Maoists had, by then, started exploring other options. They formed a nexus with the growing mining industries to procure explosives for indigenously made IEDs.
Fresh intelligence inputs have revealed that during the ongoing Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC), the CPI (Maoists) distributed huge number of pamphlets to their young cadres, teaching them how to make IEDs.
During the TCOC, which is held every year, the central leadership of the Maoists exhorts its cadres to carry out attacks on security forces besides focusing on their training on making IEDs among others.
The supply chain for them, however, remains unchecked and undisturbed each year, making the job of security forces tougher.