More troops, drones to combat Maoist menace

Anti-Maoist operations are set to get more teeth. The government has cleared a plan to deploy more troops, choppers and drones to revamp the nationally-coordinated offensive against Naxal violence launched in 2009.
The home ministry has sent a note to the cabinet committee on security in this regard.
A panel headed by cabinet secretary AK Seth has already cleared a plan to assign 14 Indian Air Force choppers - recalled recently from United Nations peacekeeping operations - to anti-Maoist operations.
The choppers will replace the fleet of six MI-17 IAF choppers currently at the ministry's disposal.
The government has also given the go-ahead to increase the number of surveillance drones and make them more effective.
To accomplish this, the unmanned aerial vehicle base will be shifted from Begumpet in Hyderabad to Bhilai, a town in the middle of the Maoist battleground in Chhattisgarh.
As many as 8,000 security personnel will also join the 80,000 central police officers already deployed across 70,000 sq km of territory where Maoists have retained control for almost two decades.
A top government source said once the initiatives - that would be formally vetted by the cabinet committee on security - are executed, it would considerably strengthen the offensive against Naxal violence, which has killed more than 11,000 people in the past 7 years.
The home ministry also wanted to deploy helicopter gunships for surgical airstrikes as well as 30,000 personnel of the army's anti-insurgency force, Rashtriya Rifles, but the defence ministry turned it down.
Interrogation reports of arrested Maoists indicate that the offensive has been paying dividends, but the security forces are yet to have the upper hand in most areas.


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