Connecting Gadchiroli: Connecting Hearts and Minds!

Monday, December 19, 2016

In September 2015, there was an exchange of gunfire between Naxalites and Gadchiroli Police Commandos. One of our officers had a life threatening bullet injury. After first aid, despite our best possible efforts, it took us almost twelve hours to bring him to hospital bed. There was no communication channel to contact the ground forces on time. No mobile network, no land line and no internet! Even our police wireless was not reliable. Satellite phone was the only life line. Helicopter stationed at Gadchiroli Police HQ was not available that day but Indian Air Force helicopter came to rescue the injured officer. While the injured officer was being brought to nearby post, rescue team was ambushed twice. Helicopter had to be flown back without rescuing the injured officer because he couldn’t reach the nearest post before the last light. We lost golden hours due to lack of communication network. We had to rescue him by road which was extremely dangerous; we learnt later that the road we used was mined and IEDs were in place to ambush the police party. Fortunately, we were able to rescue the officer and send him to the hospital in Nagpur. He survived. It was my first experience in coordinating a rescue operation and that was the day we thought we should do something to connect all our out posts and important areas. The idea of “Connecting Gadchiroli” was born.

On 14th December 2016, almost 15 months after that incident, Hon. Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri Devendra Fadnavis has inaugurated “Connecting Gadchiroli” project that connects hearts and minds of entire police force in Gadchiroli. 
Hon CM inaugurating "Connecting Gadchiroli"
Today, 64 locations in Gadchiroli district including remote posts and sub divisional police offices are directly connected to Gadchiroli head quarter by a high speed dedicated secure communication network. We now have a hot line to make a call to the posts directly, video conferencing and data sharing facility with internet connectivity. We have established a secure communication network that provides long distance transmission of data, voice, image and video information over large geographical area of Gadchiroli. “Connecting Gadchiroli” is a unique project and first of its kind in India especially in Naxal affected areas. Some of the major benefits of project “Connecting Gadchiroli” are,

  • Establishing Secure Hot Line / Intercom
  • Video Conferencing and Virtual Meetings
  • Interactive Training through video conferencing
  • Centralized CCTV Network
  • Improvement in Administration
  • Foundation for e-Governance initiatives
  • Internet Facility and Online Library
  • Telemedicine for Remote Areas
  • Communication Centers for Citizen in remote areas
  • Interaction channel for Citizen, Administrators and Public Representatives
Hon CM interacting with officers and men from all posts
The main purpose of this proposed project was to establish a secure communication network that provides long distance transmission of data, voice, image and video information over large geographical area of Gadchiroli. 
  • The unit commander / SP should be able to have a direct communication with interior police posts. He should be able to pass on the information which may be in the form of text, image, voice, or video. This is crucial in order to ensure regular follow ups, communication of decisions, orders and instructions.
  • The supervisory officers in the district should be able to communicate with all men in the interior posts without any delay.
  • Training sessions can be broadcasted live across all the posts so that large number of policemen can be trained simultaneously. 
  • Our teams spread across the district can collaborate in planning, executing and supervising the anti naxal operations. 
  • All the individual teams can be briefed and debriefed at the same time by commander or senior officer. Pictures, videos, maps related to the operation can be shared in real time.
  • Officers, men, and women working in the interior posts should be able to communicate with their families and friends as and when needed. This is important to ensure people working in the posts do not have to fight a feeling of isolation.
In order to achieve this, we needed to connect those areas which are not even covered by BSNL or any other communication agencies. It was easy to get a leased line to 24 places which were connected by Optical Fiber Connection (OFC). But how can we connect remaining 40 locations? After weeks of research; after speaking to friends, colleagues, batch mates, companies which are specialized in wireless communication, vendors who can actually supply and do the installation in Gadchiroli, finally, we were able to zero down our requirements. We had three options to connect our posts:

  1. Point to Point Connectivity (OFC):  Posts which are located at Tehsil and other important villages, where BSNL OFC connectivity is available, can be covered through Optical Fiber Connection (OFC) network of BSNL. 
  2. Long Distance P2P Micro Wave based Wireless Links: It is easy to connect all our posts where BSNL has OFC communication. But taking the connectivity to remote posts by wireless links is a challenge. Long distance P2P Wireless Link helps us transmit the data from OFC end points to remote posts. Only hurdle is we need clear line of sight for the communication. These links can cover up to 45kms depending on the line of sight. More than half of our posts in Gadchiroli are covered using this technique.
  3. Satellite Based Connection (VSAT): If any of the posts are not connected by either of the above techniques, we can go for satellite based internet connectivity. Though this technology is expensive, the bandwidth provided by this method will be sufficient enough to meet our purpose.
The entire team of Ank Marketing and Services Ltd, Gadchiroli deserves a heartfelt praise for successfully implementing this project. They have fought constant challenges posed all the time by Gadchiroli. They kept their momentum going and shown exceptional spirit in implementing this project.

This project would not have been completed without the active support of senior officers. They took keen interest in every phase of the implementation. The guidance and support of Hon DGP, ADG, IGP, SPs was crucial and encouraging. The entire team in Gadchiroli took keen interest in making this project a reality. It’s an honor and privilege to have worked for this project during my tenure in Gadchiroli. The true credit of this project goes to all those wonderful people working for Gadchiroli.

Presentation of Project Connecting Gadchiroli
Communication is the foundation for police administration. It is the key element that determines the efficiency, effectiveness and performance of the police in discharging its day to day duties. Considering the terrain and geographical conditions, availability of secure communication channel in districts like Gadchiroli is crucial and decisive factor in our fight against anti national elements. If the full benefits of this project are explored and further expanded, it will have far reaching benefits for the district. This will be a game changing project in police administration and developmental history of Gadchiroli. This project aims at providing a platform, a foundation or a base for new ideas and initiatives. Anyone with innovative ideas can use this communication platform to implement his / her ideas for the development of Gadchiroli. 

War against Naxalism and Romantic Illusions about Maoists

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It’s been almost two years since I wrote anything for this blog. I got busy experiencing life as it came, learning almost everything the hard way, accumulating impressions about life, and trying to make sense of why things are happening the way they are happening. After getting posted in Naxal infested Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, life has been almost like fire fighting, literally. Coming from a peaceful part of this great country, I had no idea about the extent and intensity of the war here. Last one year in Gadchiroli has shown a whole new perspective of life and taught me the value of it.

War against Naxals here is much more complex than the war at borders. This prolonged war is bleeding our country from within, challenging the very foundation of freedom. Some sections of the society, especially the younger generation, have romantic illusions about the Maoists, arising out of an incomplete understanding of their ideology. The central theme of Maoist ideology is violence [MHA]. The Maoist insurgency doctrine glorifies violence as the primary means to overwhelm the existing socio-economic and political structures. Speaking to surrendered naxals reveals that the young boys and girls who have joined hands with naxals have no idea what they are fighting for. They are misguided in the name of revolution and glorified violence.

The violence, intimidation and killings by Maoists in the countryside have kept the people away from the comforts of life that we all have seen in other parts of this great country. In the remote areas of Gadchiroli which are under Maoist domination, the absence of governance and difficulties in extending public service delivery systems have worsened the situation further. In the areas where police forces have flushed out naxals, people have just begun to live the life they deserve. There are villages here still out of electricity and without mobile coverage, yet to be connected to external world.

When I interact with children from remote areas, I ask them what they would like to become in future. I have not seen any child saying, “I would like to become a doctor, engineer, civil servant, etc”. But these innocent boys and girls say, “I would like to become police constable, teacher, Nurse, etc”. These jobs are greatest luxury they have seen so far. Most of these children have never seen a city in their life, not even a train! It will take at least a generation to take them out of the clutches of underdevelopment.

I keep hearing stories from my constables which are beyond my imagination. They spent their precious childhood under the threat of violence, destruction, killing. These boys who were fortunate to get some schooling have become police constables today and some of their friends who didn’t have the good fortune to have schooling have joined hands with naxals. The children who spent their childhood playing together have become enemies and are now fighting a war which they can’t comprehend fully!  Education or absence of it has defined which side they are fighting in this war.

Majority of the boys and girls who have joined police force in Gadchiroli are from tribal community. They are  fighting naxals not because it is their job, but because they want to get rid of the violence they have been seeing from their childhood. In the interior parts of Gadchiroli, their families still suffer the threat and violence from Naxals. Naxals target not only the families of police but also the families of those who wish to join police. Between 2010 to 2015 (upto 31.12.2015) around 2162 civilians and 802 security force personnel have been killed by the Maoists in different parts of India. The majority of the civilians killed are tribals, often branded as ‘Police informers’ before being brutally tortured and killed [MHA].

The Government’s approach is to deal with Left Wing Extremism in a holistic manner, in the areas of security, development, ensuring rights and entitlements of local communities, improvement in governance and public perception management. Despite the development measures, use of force against naxals is inevitable here. Unfortunately this war is dragging us. As responsible citizens of this great country we must understand and accept the fact that, when you are in war, you are in a professional business of killing the enemy. No matter who the enemy is. If you don’t kill the enemy, the enemy will kill you. It is better not to show any mercy on your enemy unless he is willing to surrender. Wiping out naxal formations in the affected area is the only way to extend development and public service delivery systems.

Some sections of the society have romantic illusions about the Maoists, arising out of an incomplete understanding of their ideology. These confused lot works under various banners. They are known as frontal organizations of Naxals and they keep us busy in courts with ridiculous allegations and protecting naxal cadres from legal actions. Thus exploiting the loopholes of our judicial machinery to help Naxals. They also work as Naxal propaganda agencies and mobilize the people against the government. These frontal organizations and pseudo human right activists are real obstacles in the war against naxals.

Because of Guerilla tactics of naxals and support from frontal organizations, the war against naxals is prolonging.  Naxals call it “Protracted People’s War”. In the “Art of War”, Sun Tzu says, “I have heard of military campaigns that were clumsy and swift, but I have never seen military campaigns that were skilled but protracted. No nation has ever benefited from protracted warfare”. Heated political rhetoric may get people into war, but when the words and emotions fade away and the conflict drags on, the nation grows weary of the economic and human toll of war, and wants out. War against naxals has already taken its toll. This has to end. The sooner it ends, better it is for this country. We all have a role to play. 

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.