NEW DELHI : The Union government has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), popularly called drones, over two iron ore mines in Chhattisgarh to remotely monitor Naxal movements and thwart attacks, two people aware of the matter said.

The mines operated by the National Mineral Development Corp. (NMDC) are located at Bacheli and Kirandulin in the Naxal heartland of Dantewada district. The drones were deployed in the last two months, said an official with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the first of the two people cited above. The mines are already guarded by about 600 CISF personnel.

“The drones’ surveillance extends up to an 8km radius in each of the mines. The feed is directly sent to some control rooms which have been set up and from there, the moment we see that there is some movement of Naxals in or around the area, immediately the CISF personnel who are guarding the vicinity of the mines are alerted," the CISF official said on condition of anonymity.

The CISF is not tasked with combat operations in the red corridor. According to the official, if surveillance spots a major Naxal movement, the nearest CRPF battalion station is “promptly alerted to send in reinforcements so that any possible attack can be stopped at the source itself."

In 2016, a group of Naxals trekked up the slippery ravines along Bacheli’s iron ore mines at Dantewada’s Akashnagar and robbed explosives and detonators used to blast rocks, and torched conveyor belts. While the incident exposed the vulnerability of these establishments, the Centre is now trying to plug security loopholes.

“There are huge amounts of explosives that are transported in such mines. The Naxals primarily look at stealing these explosives, which come in handy for them to make improvised explosive devices (IED). As collateral damage, the mining equipment is damaged or worse still, our men are killed. This kind of technology will certainly help to avert this disaster," said a Union home ministry official, the second person cited above.

In 2010, after Naxals ambushed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Dantewada and killed 76 security personnel, the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had proposed to deploy security drones for reconnaissance along the tri-junction of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

In 2012, however, the deployment of a drone in Dantewada backfired when the device mistakenly transmitted images of a village as ‘Naxal camps,’ following which security forces were ambushed in a surprise attack by Naxals.

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