Monday, May 5, 2008

Nandigram to have more police, not less : The Telegraph (5.05.08)

- Home secy rules out withdrawing forces from land-war zone & Maoist-hit areas before polls


Calcutta, May 5: The government today ruled out any possible scaling down of the police presence in Nandigram before the May 11-18 panchayat polls.

Home secretary Ashok Mohan Chakrabarti said more forces would be sent to the land-war zone to ensure peaceful elections.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today held a meeting with Chakrabarti, chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb and director-general of police A.B. Vohra to discuss law and order in the run-up to the polls.

The home secretary will visit Midnapore town tomorrow for an update on the continuing trouble in Nandigram and discuss poll preparations in East and West Midnapore.

“I would definitely discuss the latest developments in Nandigram and its adjacent places as I am aware of the trouble brewing there. But there’s no question of withdrawing or reducing forces stationed there. Rather, the forces will have to be supplemented,” Chakrabarti said.

The East Midnapore superintendent of police, S.S. Panda, however, said tonight that according to a circular issued on Saturday, some of the police personnel posted in Nandigram were to be pulled out for deployment elsewhere. “If the government has now decided not to withdraw the forces, we’ll abide by that,” he added

The home secretary said: “As in Nandigram, there is no question of pulling out forces from Maoist-hit Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore and Birbhum. They have to be increased.”

Chakrabarti said it would be impossible to deploy armed personnel at each of the 47,000-plus polling booths. “We are expecting only five to seven companies of central forces and about 22 companies from other states. Elections in Karnataka and law-and-order problems in Bihar, Jharkhand and other states have denied us a larger non-Bengal force,” he said.

The home secretary, however, promised armed personnel at all sensitive booths. All Nandigram booths have been tagged sensitive.

Bengal has a 36,000-strong police force, of which around 14,000 would be deployed for the rural elections. The government also wants the services of 25,000 to 30,000 home guards.

The state election commission today ordered a probe into complaints of CPM intimidation by a group of Trinamul Congress candidates from Nandigram. Over 40 of them demonstrated in front of the poll panel’s Rawdon Square office in Calcutta for over four hours.

The East Midnapore district magistrate has been told to conduct a probe and send a report by tomorrow, panel secretary S.N. Roychowdhury said.