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UAV useless with manpower crunch: Gill



NEW DELHI: Deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the Naxalite-infested forests of Chhattisgarh appears to have been of little help in counter-operations given the serious security manpower crunch and the lack of reinforcements such as helicopters to para-drop forces for expeditious action on data collected by the UAVs.

This admission came from none other than the advisor to Chhattisgarh government on Left-wing extremism, Mr K P S Gill. In a telephonic interview to ET from Raipur, Mr Gill, who has been advising the state for more than a year now, conceded: "In view of the difficult terrain, which the security personnel can only cover on foot, UAVs by themselves may not be an answer for intelligence-based operations...They have to be reinforced with adequate security personnel or force multipliers like helicopters to speedily reach the troops to areas showing Naxal concentration."

As of now, the state has a solitary MI-17 from the BSF air wing at its disposal. This, by no means, is enough given that the UAVs are equipped to cover 300 km in a single day.

The data collected the UAVs is of little value if not followed up with immediate operations: Naxalites have already taken anti-UAV precautions like camping under thicker foliage and keeping the camps mobile.

The ineffectiveness of the UAVs is best demonstrated by the fact that they were unable to pinpoint the location of the 9th congress of the CPI(Maoist) held in February this year somewhere in Chhattisgarh.

Incidentally, UAVs have not been in use in the state for the last 15-20 days due to some technical glitches. This essentially means that the concentration of Naxalites near the police outpost in Bijapur ahead of Thursday's attack could not be mapped.

Not only this, as the hundreds of Naxalite cadres retreated into the jungles after killing 55 police personnel, having UAVs in action to map their escape route and helicopters to airdrop the forces could have raised the chances of intercepting the fleeing cadres.

According to Mr Gill, given the expanse of the extremist-infested Bastar region and its heavy foliage, the forces have no choice but to move on foot. The areas of Naxal concentration as mapped by the UAVs could be as many as eight days' march away.

"It would make sense to airdrop the security forces at a site closer to the hideout, so that the forces may need to march only for a day...or better still, have them dropped in a way so as to surround the Naxalite camp," said Mr Gill, explaining how the helicopters must be used intelligently so as to not alert the extremists.

The former supercop also complained that the 85 companies of security personnel at disposal of the state for fighting the extremists was "terribly inadequate", given that several of these men were preoccupied with static duties like guarding the Salwa Judum camps across the Dantewada region.

As may be recalled, Mr Gill had earlier demanded 40 more companies for Chhattisgarh, a demand that was dismissed as highly exaggerated by the Centre. At present, 11 battalions of the CRPF and 2 battalions of armed police of other states are deployed for counter-Naxal operations in the state worst-hit by Left-wing extremism. Gulf News

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posted by Resistance 3/17/2007 12:01:00 PM,

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