Why CRPF bravehearts lose the battle of life in ‘Red Corridor’

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Timely evacuation of injured jawans of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), including the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in anti-naxal operation, has become a major concern for the CAPFs deployed in the anti-Maoist counter operations.

The issue becomes more important at a time when the Union government is pushing for more operations against these ultras amidst their shrinking footprint in the affected states.

The CRPF and its specialised Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA) personnel are mostly deployed in the naxal affected states and many of its personnel, who sustain injuries during ground operations, even lose their lives due to late evacuations from the operational ground.

Recently on February 26, three CRPF personnel including an assistant commandant were injured in IED blast in Bihar’s Aurangabad district and three injured could not be evacuated to the Gaya because of some technical issues.

All were taken by road to Gaya airport but they could not airlifted to Delhi as the pilots were not ready to fly, citing weather conditions & low visibility. They were sent back a hospital in Gaya and operated upon. Later, they were airlifted to AIIMS, Delhi to via air ambulance for better medical management.

Assistant Commandant Bibhor Kumar Singh was hit by the IED blast, he has had a left foot amputation below the knee, his right foot is severely injured and there are multiple injuries on his left hand.

The CRPF officials deployed on operational ground said that these issues sometime impact the morale of the forces and sometimes de-motivate the troopers who take on the Maoists head on during the operation.

Retired Inspector General (IG) B.N. Singh of the Border Security Force (BSF) also said that this has become a major issue in counter operations against the naxals but the commanders on the ground must take note of these factors like technical glitches, bad weather condition and non availability of choppers in night before planning an operation.

“The choppers has to land in the forest areas and sometimes the helipads are far from the actual operation ground, so the availability of helipads near the ‘area of operation’ must be taken into consideration while planning an operation against the Maoists,” Singh told IANS.

The BSF is only central security force having the air wing.

Last year too, the CRPF had lost 22 jawans in Bastar in Chhattisgarh, wherein the chopper could not land due to multiple reasons, and it took hours for the bodies to be removed from the encounter site.

Talking about the procedures, the CRPF officials said that during the operation, if the security personnel are hit, they are treated with the nursing staffs who also go with them during the operation; but in case of grievous injury, the injured jawans are taken to forward base or Force’s camp and the doctor present there attends the injured personnel. In case of the serious condition, they are airlifted to nearby city hospital, they added.

“Evacuation of injured troopers is really difficult in the forest areas because of the non-availability of roads. Also ambulance cannot be sent to ‘operation ground’ at once as the road has to be sensitized before sending an ambulance,” the officials said.

“Yes, there have been cases where backup or support could not reach in time, endangering lives of jawans injured in operations,” a senior official, deployed in the ‘Red Corridor’ in Chhattisgarh, admitted.

There is a need of making more helipads in the forest located at naxal affected states for evacuations. However, these ultras have destroyed the helipads in past in Chhattisgarh, the officials said.

Sharing his own experience as in-charge of air wing of BSF, the former IG Singh said that sending chopper to the operation site also has many challenges like dense forest, low visibility and also there are possibilities of attack by the ultras on chopper and it often become “impossible” to carry out evacuations during the night.

He also said that most of the BSF’s helicopters are on the disposal of the CRPF and they deploy as per the requirement now a days.

The system of Bike ambulance was introduced to bring back injured jawans from the operation ground recently, but this is not effective in case of serious injury.

The CRPF officials also said that many of the helicopters operating in the country’s anti-Naxal operations grid are being retrofitted with air ambulance-like facilities as part of a maiden initiative to reduce casualties of its troops and other personnel.

A specialised training module for helicopter-based air ambulance services, for the force’s doctors and paramedical staff, was launched at a CRPF camp in Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh in March, 2021, they said.

The officials also said that the in-service choppers only have basic medicines and doctors on-board when on a ‘mission sortie’ to evacuate a seriously wounded or ill personnel and administering quick specialised medical care in the air is not possible.

The time taken in the entire process of lifting injured personnel and getting them admitted to a hospital leads to instances of excessive blood loss and also losing the ‘golden hour’ to save a person hit in operation, they added.

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