Maiden Innings

At his first press conference, DG CRPF, Pranay Sahay lays out his KRAs

Dilip Kumar Mekala

DG Pranay SahayOn October 30, when the director general (DG) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) addressed his maiden press conference, he seemed to have sailed through the rough waters. Just a month before his first press conference, he assumed the additional charge of director general of the country’s largest paramilitary force. This was in addition to his previous post as the director general of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). While some reports at that time suggested that the Government of India gave only temporary charge as head of the CRPF to the DG SSB, it was later reported that there might be a change in the SSB’s top position. As of now, Pranay Sahay is assuming the charge as the DG for both the paramilitary forces.

In the press conference, it was straight down to business. Sahay decided to directly take on the question and answer session, unlike any other media conference which begins with a long list of achievements. Instead, a press release highlighting last year’s list of achievements was handed over to the journalists right at the beginning, thus, ensuring that no time was wasted. All through the conference, Sahay relied on a team of experts like the inspector general, DIG and ADG.

But this only made it chaotic, what with so many talking heads. When a reporter posed a question to DG Sahay about the CRPF men killed despite the use of Mine-Protected Vehicles (MPV), N.C. Asthana, inspector general, CoBRA, decided to answer it providing technical details. “High detonation velocity explosives like RDX shatter the metallic hull of the MPV whereas low detonator velocity explosives (used by the naxals) tend to topple it… The casualties take place because the vehicle itself topples,” informed Asthana. He cited the example of US troops in Afghanistan. The number of mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles in Afghanistan is 17,700 and the number of IEDs found was 16,553 (either exploded, unexploded or detected before exploded) last year. The number of US troops injured last year was 5,183 and 566 were killed. “If they (US troops) couldn’t prevent the damage, what can we do?” asked Asthana. The tone and tenor of the reply resulted in a brief heated exchange between journalists and CRPF officials.

Such unpleasantries can deeply demoralise CRPF officials, who are already troubled by many other internal issues such as promotions for cadre officers, and high attrition in the CRPF.

According to reports, CRPF men preferred posting in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) sector to areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE). “Difference in the allowance (between J&K and LWE areas) is one of the main reasons why people opt for J&K,” said Sahay. Apparently, CRPF men deployed in the J&K sector earn more than those deployed in the LWE affected areas. Sahay told reporters that the CRPF has appealed to the home ministry that this difference in the wages should be reduced so that CRPF men are willing to work even in the LWE areas. Currently, 33 per cent of the CRPF men are deployed in J&K. “We are also encouraging postings in the home state to address the issue of vacancies,” said Sahay.

According to CRPF officials, CRPF troop movements were tracked in all the special operations so that reinforcements could be sent easily if the troops were attacked. “In case of operations in remote and inaccessible areas, we are monitoring our troops on a 24x7 basis,” said IG Pankaj Singh said. “If there is any attack, the reinforcement, arms and ammunition can be sent to the troops without them having to inform us,” he added. According to the DG, Basuguda, Abujhmaad and Tulsi Dongri (Chhattisgarh); Burra Pahad and Saranda (Jharkhand); Chakarbanda (West Bengal) and parts of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and few locations in Odisha are identified as the areas which are out of reach for security personnel.

Another contentious issue that emerged in the course of the press meet was the use of helicopters in the LWE theatre. Till now, the Indian Air Force supplied the Mi-17 helicopters. However, there were some differences between the IAF and the CRPF over the maintenance of the choppers. In the wake of these differences, the MHA allowed the CRPF to hire the choppers privately for the LWE operations. “We have already forwarded a proposal to ministry of home affairs for hiring two helicopters which will be maintained and controlled by the CRPF,” said Sahay. As of now, mostly two types of helicopters are being used – Mi-17 and Dhurv. “We have experienced problems with Mi-17 since it cannot fly in cloudy weather and it has delayed deployment in the past,” he added.

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