Recently, an IED (improvised explosive device) killed 10 security personnel of the District Reserve Guard in Chattisgarh’s Dantewada area.
The jawans were out on an anti-Maoist mission when they were ambushed.
Rigorous and regular implementation of various detection methods, such as metal detectors, ground-penetrating radar, and trained sniffer dogs, to locate and clear landmines and IEDs, is essential.
Legislative measures are required for mandatory addition of odoriferous chemicals and/or biosensors to explosives used in industry and mining etc. for their easy detection during transport. Likewise, legislative measures are required for stricter controls on manufacture, supply and sale of explosives and detonators.
Were any tactical mistakes made?
The quintessential dilemma for security forces is that they are dealing with an enemy who is faceless, unidentifiable and hidden among the people.
Wedded to upholding the law of the land and protecting its people, security personnel can open fire only in self-defence, not on apprehension.
In all such scenarios, particularly in landmine/IED ambushes, the reaction or the response time available for what is called “Immediate Action (IA) or Counter Ambush drill” is a few seconds, and that too, if a few of the security personnel are lucky enough to survive the initial IED ambush.
Hence, all standard operating systems and procedures, technological measures etc. are directed towards identification and detection of IEDs/landmines and to avoid being caught in them.
How can errors be minimised?
The first thing that must be kept in mind is to avoid travel by vehicle.
The safest mode of travel is on foot in a region where left-wing extremism is active.
Studies show that over 60% of casualties/fatalities in Maoist territories are because of vehicles ambushed in landmines/IEDs, as also seen in the recent Chhattisgarh incident.
Routine operations like area domination, cordon-and-search, and long range patrolling, ambush-cum-patrolling and so forth should only be undertaken on foot.
The security forces are expected to take civilian or State Road Transport Corporation buses.
To avoid easy identification, they must travel with civilians in mufti with weapons carefully concealed.
How can a region be made safe for travel?
The detection methods, such as metal detectors, ground-penetrating radar, and trained sniffer dogs, to locate and clear landmines and IEDs, are essential.
Road opening parties play an important role in detection of ambushes.
Aerial surveillance carried out through drones and road opening parties equipped with UGVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles), can not only detect the presence of terrorists to carry out operations but also pick tell-tale signs of a likely ambush like piles of rock and mud bags, dugout portions on the sides of the roads, and absence of people or movement of other vehicles.
Based on the above inputs, areas known or suspected to contain landmines or IEDs can be mapped and contingency plans prepared for them.
This includes establishing safe routes, setting up checkpoints, and creating evacuation plans as part of both preventive and mitigation measures.
What about Intelligence inputs?
While it is important to gather actionable intelligence, due to enormous risks of reprisals by terrorists, locals usually do not divulge information for money alone.
Relationships have to be cultivated and goodwill generated among the local population on a long-term basis beyond and above transactional levels.
This requires patience, commitment, empathy and integrity on the part of security forces, which is sometimes lacking.
Measures that need to be undertaken:
Several measures need to be undertaken at the government level, both at the Centre and States.
These include collaboration with international organisations, NGOs, and other countries to share information, resources, and best practices for landmine and IED prevention, detection, and clearance; implementation and enforcement of national and international laws, policies, and regulations aimed at preventing the use, production, and trade of landmines and IEDs.
Legislative measures are required for mandatory addition of odoriferous chemicals and/or biosensors to explosives used in industry and mining etc.
The efforts of both the Government of India and the State governments, and to provide