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Monday, 20 July 2009

From Today's Papers - 20 Jul 09

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College that trains cops to take on Naxalites

The motto of the Kanker Jungle Warfare College is ‘Fight a guerrilla like a guerrilla’

Man Mohan

Our Roving Editor

Kanker (Chhattisgarh), July 19

The police are not following the basic rules of jungle warfare while fighting the Naxalites, Chhattisgarh’s top terrorism expert Brigadier (retd) BK Ponwar has charged.

Ponwar is heading Chhattisgarh’s first Counter-Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College here in north Bastar, 145 km from state capital Raipur. At least, 39 policemen, including the Superintendent of Police Vinod Kumar Choubey, were killed in a gruesome guerrilla attack by the Maoists (commonly called Naxalites) in Rajnandgaon district on July 12.

Maoists have become more offensive in Chhattisgarh as the state police recently breached the “Red Corridor” in its two northern districts, Sarguja and Jashpur, flushing out ‘red rebels’ from there. The “Red Corridor” runs through the dense forest belt from the Nepal border to Andhra Pradesh.

“I do not want to rub salt on wounds after a spate of killings but it hurts me a lot when the police do not follow the basics of jungle warfare,” Ponwar told The Tribune.

“If one does not follow traffic rules while driving, it may lead to an accident,” said Ponwar emphasising that “similarly, if the police will not follow the basics of jungle warfare, they will continue to meet the same fate as they did on Sunday (July 12)…the policemen had just walked into a booby trap”.

The incident had witnessed the highest-ever casualty that the security forces had suffered in a single day in the three-decade history of Naxal violence in Chhattisgarh. The tragedy has shaken up the police.

Chhattisgarh, in 2005, opened its own jungle warfare college. In early 2004, the policemen were sent to the Army-run Mizoram jungle warfare school, then headed by Ponwar. On his superannuation, Ponwar was requisitioned by the Chhattisgarh government in the rank of Inspector General of Police to head the Kanker College.

The Kanker jungle Warfare College has trained over 7,000 policemen, including officers from Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and Kerala. Of late, West Bengal has also started sending policemen here - perhaps after learning the lesson from the Lalgarh episode.

However, despite the July 12 deadly attack by the Maoists, Ponwar is optimistic. The recent defeat of the LTTE in Sri Lanka after a 30-year conflict has raised his hopes. “If Colombo can do it, we can also do it…the Bastar jungles are not that difficult,” he said.

Ponwar tells every batch of commandoes, “Your fight with Naxals starts right at your doorstep…be careful otherwise your body will go back.”

Still, the police and security forces deployed all over the state are not careful. The Maoists killed many of them when they went for a nature’s call in early hours.

The Kanker college has unique facilities of 14 reflex shooting, and special firing ranges, rock climbing, rappelling, slithering, unarmed combat areas, natural obstacle course, endurance track, hills, rivers, thick jungles and remotely populated villages close by making an ideal area for combat training similar to the battle field.

The course is open to all age groups, both for men and women. Over 200 police women have done the course so far and many have performed better than the men. “Many trainees are scared on arrival but after the course they feel confident on rediscovering their strength,” said Ponwar.

Maoists some time back made a daring plan to blow up the vehicles of top officers of the Kanker jungle warfare college. The Naxalites dug up a five feet tunnel under the main highway near the college to install a massive landmine in it. A timely alert from local people prevented the tragedy.

The Maoists hate this college as it has been producing the best commandos for various Naxal-infested states. The college’s motto is: “Fight a guerilla like a guerilla.”

“I have always cautioned policemen not to move in vehicles on jungle roads and always carry de-mining squads and sniffer dogs capable of detecting IED while going on operations,” said Ponwar.

“But policemen are flouting warfare rules over and again...what was the hurry on Sunday (July 12) for the SP to rush without clearing landmines? The policemen should have avoided use of vehicles and moved in a V-formation along the jungle road but surprisingly they did not carry either mine detection equipment or sniffer dogs,” said Ponwar.

Ponwar has seen action in counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency areas in Nagaland, Punjab and Tripura. At Mizoram jungle warfare school, Ponwar had conducted the Indo-US defence cooperation exercise “Yudh Abhyas”.

Recruitment scam hits Army

Rajan Mahan, Sunday July 19, 2009, Ajmer

In a major embarrassment for the Army, local police in Rajasthan along with Military Intelligence, busted a gang running a racket to recruit candidates through money and not merit.

The shocking scandal has hit Army just when youngsters were trying hard to become soldiers. Six Army officials in Rajasthan are involved in this scam.

"We have interrogated them and they have accepted their involvement," said Rahul Prakash, Additional SP, Ajmer Police.

Police claim that the racket has existed for several years and the gang functions all over the state. The eight touts arrested so far have also admitted that they took Rs 1.5 lakh from each candidate. Some retired Army officials in Rajasthan are also allegedly partners in this scam.

The Army now promises a crackdown.

"If we find any of the officers or the JCO to be guilty, we will take the strictest action possible under the Army Act," said Col Bharat Kumar, Director (Recruiting), Jodhpur.

But the Army's image has already taken a beating, for besides three Subedar Majors, three Majors serving as doctors in the Medical Corps namely Dr S Sriniwas, Dr R Maitrey and Dr B K Prasad were allegedly involved in this scam.

And convincing young aspirants .that entry into the Army is not on sale through money won't be easy.

Stampede at Army recruitment camp in UP

Ajay Pandey, Anant Zanane, Sunday July 19, 2009, Chandauli

Things took an ugly turn at an Army recruitment drive in eastern Uttar Pradesh's Chandauli on Sunday. Some applicants protested against an alleged bias towards Gorkha applicants. The Army opened fire at the protesters, killing one.

The firing also triggered a stampede that left several others injured.

For most applicants, this chance for a Rs 15,000 job with the Army is lost. But for the state government this was another opportunity to blame the Centre.

"One person has died in the incident. This happened because there was a complete lack of coordination between the Army and the local police. We have written to the Ministry of Defence about this," said Shashank Shekhar Singh, Cabinet Secretary, Uttar Pradesh.

The camp has been called off temporarily, but this incident is undoubtedly an embarrassment for the Army.

Trouble was brewing from day one

TNN 19 July 2009, 09:44pm IST

CHANDAULI: Poor preparations of Chandauli district administration and the police while hosting the huge recruitment rally of the Indian Army made

trouble inevitable on the concluding day on Sunday.

If locals were to be believed, right from the beginning of the rally, problems like eve-teasing and misbehaviour with traders had started. They claimed that despite sending delegations to the offices of the DM and the SP, no arrangement was made to maintain law and order. Even IG PC Meena and divisional commissioner Suresh Chandra noticed that basic tasks like removal of building material, like bricks dumped outside the Chandauli Polytechnic, the venue where recruitment rally of the Army was held, had not been removed.

Even on the concluding day when over 15,000 candidates from Varanasi and Chandauli districts assembled at the rally venue, SP Laxmi Narain did not find it necessary to enhance security arrangements. He said an inspector, two SOs, several sub-inspectors and 39 constables had been deployed there to regulate the crowd. But the police could also not ensure that candidates, who were declared disqualified after 22 rounds of physical test, had left the venue. The same youth got the opportunity to provoke others when they noticed some Gorkha candidates joining the last lap of 23rd round of race.

When the angry mob of the youth started brick batting and entered the polytechnic campus, the police looked helpless while the Army personnel were compelled to open fire in self defence. Dr Dinesh Singh, who was deployed at the rally site, recalled: "Maximum injuries took place inside the rally venue as the candidates and Army personnel present there were not ready for the attack." He said the number of injured persons was over 80. Chandan Kumar of Chakia was the first to sustain serious injuries while Col Sunil Wasan and 11 other Army officials and soldiers also sustained injuries. He said the angry mob was compelled to quit the polytechnic campus after the Army personnel opened fire.

Deputy director general, Army Recruitment Centre UP/Uttarakhand headquarters, Brig SK Thapa said the district administration and police maintained proper coordination with the Army for the rally, but those arrangements were not sufficient.

Meanwhile, locals said there was no role of police in normalising the situation. When the angry youth were tired of violence, they quit on their own accord. And, this way the situation normalised itself, they maintained.

Trouble was brewing from day one

Army honour for Tilaiya alumnus


Ranchi, July 19: Major General Gyan Bhushan, an alumnus of Sainik School, Tilaiya, has made the school and state proud by being the first person from the institute to become a lieutenant general in the Indian Army.

Only two posts in the army — field marshal (in case of national emergency) and general (chief of army staff) — are considered above lieutenant general.

Bhushan is currently the commandant of Indian Military Training Team, Bhutan, responsible for the training of Royal Bhutan Army and Royal Body Guards.

Earlier, Bhushan was decorated with Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal for his exemplary services to the country. Originally hailing from Ranchi, Bhushan passed out of Tilaiya to join the National Defence Academy and was commissioned into the Indian Army in 1973.

The principal, Group Captain Anup Kumar Varshneya, staff and cadets have congratulated Bhushan for achieving the latest feat.

Sainik School, Tilaiya has been a feeder for aspirants to NDA and Naval Academy (NA). So far, about 1,200 students of the school have joined the defence forces as commissioned officers. This year too, 19 students have already the NDA and NA in the first batch, a proud achievement by a single school in the country.

Meanwhile, chairman of the local board of administration of the school Brigadier S.K. Yadav visited the school on July 15 and 16.

He motivated and inspired the cadets to join the defence forces in large numbers. An inter-house declamation contest was held in the school auditorium during his visit.

Col reprimanded for loss of ID cards
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 19
A general court martial has awarded a severe reprimand and forfeiture of one year’s service for the purpose of pension to the commanding officer of an armoured regiment in a case pertaining to the loss of 87 identity cards belonging to troops of his unit. While the army court acquitted the colonel of the first charge that the decision of keeping the ID cards was his, he was held guilty on two other charges of not issuing appropriate instructions and belatedly reporting the matter to higher authorities.

The GCM, presided over by GOC 16 Infantry Division Maj Gen AK Bakshi, concluded at the Bathinda military station yesterday evening. However, the court’s verdict is subject to confirmation. The officer’s counsel, Col PN Chauturvedi (retd), claimed there were no provisions of reporting a matter late in terms of the relevant army orders that were cited in the charges.

The ID cards were reported to have been missing when the unit was engaged in exercises in Punjab in 2007. Their loss had created a security alert as they could have been used to gain access to high security zones or military installations in case they fell into the wrong hands.

A court of inquiry ordered by Headquarters 23 Infantry Division had held the officers along with some jawans blameworthy for the loss of the ID cards. They were charged under provisions of the Army Act for alleged lack of supervision and violation of security instructions.

Earlier, in the same case a separate general court martial held in the Central Command had dismissed a lieutenant colonel of the same unit for alleged lapses that had led to the loss of the ID cards. The court, presided over by Brig KS Virk, had held him guilty on the three charges. The defence, which had put in a ‘not guilty’ plea, contended the court lacked jurisdiction on account of procedural lacunae.

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