Fighting the Enemy

More technological solutions have to be acquired by the government to counter IED threats posed to the CRPF in the Red Corridor

Dilip Kumar Mekala

If the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) were to be believed, the paramilitary forces fighting the internal security battle — especially in the Red Corridor — were provided with the best equipment. The paramilitary personnel, however, think otherwise. Either it is inadequate number of weapons and systems, or inefficient training; till now the paramilitary forces have not been able to handle the security situation in the Naxal stronghold areas. Latest in the long list of disappointments were the incidents of Naxal attacks during the General Elections.

IED blast site in Chhattisgarh

On April 12, Bastar and Bijapur districts in Chhattisgarh witnessed Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) blasts during the voting season. Maoists triggered landmines in these two areas which claimed the lives of seven polling officials and five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel. Three days later, another blast was carried out which killed three security forces. On May 11, seven cops were killed in yet another landmine blast in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra.

When asked for MHA’s assessment on these security lapses, a highly placed official in the ministry said that the paramilitary personnel were in the ‘election mode’, and as a result security vacuum was created. He implied that it was not physically possible to ensure full safety in this so-called ‘election mode’. He then tossed over the responsibility and blame on to the director generals (DG) of the paramilitary forces. “The top leadership of the paramilitary forces could have done better by ensuring proper training to their troops,” he said. Giving the example of mini-training centres, which were the brain-child of the then DG CRPF Vijay Kumar, the MHA official said that the DGs did not take this idea forward. Apparently, lack of coordinated efforts between the top officials led to the lack of training.

The biggest challenge for the security forces in the Red Corridor comes from IED. Maoists have preferred the IED option in the Red Corridor, which in the last five years has claimed the lives of at least 300 CRPF personnel. Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV), which were supposed to protect security personnel from IED blasts, have themselves become a reason for the higher casualties. When this issue was raised with top MHA official, his immediate defence was to draw parallel with the United States Army in Afghanistan, who, according to him, were not able to solve the IED problem.

The existing MPVs with the CRPF are not designed to sustain the intensity of IED blasts. High detonation velocity explosives like RDX shatter the metallic hull of the MPV whereas the low detonator velocity explosives (used by Naxals) tend to topple it. The casualties took place because the vehicle itself toppled during the IED blast. The CRPF wishes to acquire MPVs that can sustain high detonation velocities.

Contrary to what the top official of the MHA claimed, the US NATO troops have been able to reduce casualties by inducting new techniques into their operations. To ensure better protection, the mine resistant ambush protection (MRAP) vehicles are designed to have V-shaped underbellies to deflect blasts outwards, which in turn give less shockwaves to the troops inside the vehicle. The new generation MRAPs weigh much less than its previous version as it is made from lighter and stronger steel. These vehicles also featured suspended seats to protect riders from the shock waves emanating from the blasts below. So, essentially this modified MRAP gives better protection from the blasts, with much reduced weight, more effective V-shaped underbelly and the removed crew pod. As a preventive measure, American forces fitted their vehicles (used in counter IED operations) with extra wheels in the front which triggers the explosions much before the vehicle comes directly under the blast.

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