NEW DELHI :
Four months after Chhattisgarh wrapped up the assembly elections, the state – fraught with Naxal violence – is once again preparing for the Lok Sabha elections on a war-footing, even as sporadic episodes of Naxal violence persist in the state’s Bastar region.
Even as one Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldier was killed and five others injured in Bastar’s Dantewada, while nine civilians were injured after Naxals targeted a civilian vehicle in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Bijapur last week, the state is rolling out watertight security measures for the upcoming polls.
With Bastar going to polls in the first phase on 11 April, all central paramilitary forces and state police personnel have been deployed in Bastar and across the state.
While the Bastar Lok Sabha constituency accounts for Naxalism-affected Dantewada, Bastar, Kondagaon, Dantewada, Bijapur and Narayanpur districts, forces are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that any threat of Naxal attacks are kept at bay.
With 50,000 forces already present across the state – from across the CRPF and the state police -- an additional 10,000 forces of paramilitary personnel have also been deployed, taking up the number to 60,000 soldiers who will be guarding Chhattisgarh during the upcoming polls.
In contrast, during the recently concluded assembly elections in November, 650 companies, comprising 77,000 paramilitary personnel, had been deployed across Rajnandgaon, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Jagdalpur, Bastar, Sukma, Dantewada and Bijapur districts.
“During Lok Sabha elections, the number of troops is usually less than the assembly elections. A total of 80 companies of paramilitary personnel have been deployed across Chhattisgarh, with each company accounting for 130 soldiers. Earlier there were 30,000 CRPF personnel who had already been posted in Bastar. Additionally, 15,000 forces of the zila bal (District Guard) were also present," superintendent of police (Dantewada) Abhishek Pallav, told Mint.
At the same time, with the threat of IED attacks and ambushes looming large, the forces – Pallav confirmed – have also employed drones, along with restricting vehicluar movement along select routes.
“There is a regular checking and a de-mining squad is sent out along with sniffer dogs to check for any IED presence. All armed forces are sanitizing the areas and all necessary precautions are being taken," he said.
Another senior official also confirmed, on the condition of anonymity, that while helicopters will be used to transport election officials, their induction and de-induction will be phased out.
“For safety reasons the polling booths have been shifted to about 5-6 kms away from the villages and kept very close to main roads so as to avoid ambushes. We will start moving election officials three days prior to the polling date and phase out their de-inductions as well after assessing the threat and availability of choppers," the official added.