Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Force beef-up to take on red army

Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF), a crack team within RPF, will be deployed at all ‘sensitive’ stations to prevent a repeat of Sunday’s Maoist attack at Jhajha station. Six persons, including five policemen, were killed, arms looted from the RPF post and the station extensively damaged. The Eastern Central Railway (ECR) has also decided to intensify track patrolling in Maoist-affected areas and operate light engines before mail and express trains.

These were among several major decisions taken at a high-level emergency meeting of the ECR top brass in Patna on Monday morning following the daring attack the previous evening. The unprecedented beef-up in security at all vulnerable places under ECR zone in Bihar and Jharkhand will take effect immediately.

In the meeting held at the residence of ECR general manager Girish Bhatnagar, Jasidih-Jhajha, Patna-Buxar, Patna-Gaya, Gaya-Dhanbad, Barkakana-Daltonganj-Mughalsari and Gaya-Mughalsari sections have been identified as extremely vulnerable to Maoist attacks.

In the past couple of years, Maoists have frequently targeted railways to create panic among the common people as well as to loot the railway armed force’s weapons. A passenger train was hijacked in Palamu in March, 2006.

There were three more attacks on stations the same year and an attempt to derail a passenger train. In 2007, Narganjo station was attacked twice. The losses following these attacks ran into crores.

Expressing shock at the incident, a senior railway official said the railways had decided to launch a joint operation with the government railway police (GRP) to check Maoists activities in and around railway premises. It was also decided that track patrolling will be intensified at the stretches identified as vulnerable. "There will be day and night patrolling at these stretches," a source said.

That apart, it has been decided to operate a light engine ahead of mail and express trains at these sections to prevent a major accident in case extremists are able to plant explosives. In Kolkata, railway minister Lalu Prasad blamed the Bihar government for Sunday’s attack. According to him, the government had failed to contain Naxal-related violence in Bihar.

"The Naxals have increased their activities in north Bihar, particularly along the Indo-Nepal border. The state government has failed to check the activities of Maoists," Lalu told reporters in Kolkata on Monday morning, demanding immediately combing operations to arrest those responsible for the attack.

"The railways have turned into a soft target for Naxals. At Jhajha, they blew up the GRP station. A jawan was killed and important trains like the Rajdhani Express were held up. The railways is the country’s property and needs to be protected at all costs," Lalu said. A GRP officer also said the force needed to be modernised to effectively counter Maoists.

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