SP-rank officer to lead CRPF convoys in Kashmir

‘Single motorcade will not have more than 40 vehicles’
SP-rank officer to lead CRPF convoys in Kashmir
File Photo

The central reserve police force (CPPF) convoys moving to and from the Kashmir Valley will now be commandeered by a SP-rank officer and a single motorcade will not have more than 40 vehicles, according to the new standard operating procedures (SOPs) ordered in the wake of the Pulwama attack that killed 40 personnel of the force last month.

PTI has accessed a set of new SOPs issued by the forceheadquarters in Delhi for vehicle-mounted movement of its personnel in Jammuand Kashmir, and it has also been ordered that the 'passenger manifestdiscipline' for each vehicle in the convoy be strictly adhered to.           

Amongst the first set of changed SOPs is the move to depute a second-in-command rank officer (equivalent to superintendent of police rank) of the force to lead the convoy instead of the current practice of a junior assistant commandant-rank (assistant SP) officer heading the entourage.

This is to ensure that the convoy is led by an experienced and senior officer who will have a better understanding and strategy to manoeuvre the convoy to and from the Kashmir Valley which is operationally very sensitive due to militant acts and IED threats, official sources said.

This will also upgrade the accountability hierarchy and thenew convoy commander will now directly report and co-ordinate with one of thethree CRPF deputy inspectors general (operations) based in Kashmir.

Till now, the convoy commander or the assistant commandantused to report through the commandant to their higher-ups.

The convoy commander usually travels in the lead in acommunications gadget-fitted vehicle comprising armed troops for quickreaction.

It has also been decided that the convoy strength will notgo beyond 40 vehicles in any case and "all possible efforts" will be made toessentially keep the number of vehicles in a motorcade to the least possible ofabout 10-20 for effective management and control, they said.

A CRPF bus in the fifth position of a 78 vehicle convoy wastargeted by a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber after he detonated hisexplosives-laden SUV near it on the Jammu-Srinagar highway in Pulwama onFebruary 14.

The over 2,500 personnel strength convoy was being commandedby an AC-rank officer and all 39 personnel in the ill-fated bus and asub-officer stationed on the ground, as part of a road sanitisation party, werekilled in the blast.

The force undertook a huge and time-taking task of identifying the bodies of its slain personnel as the blast had blown the bus and its occupants to smithereens making it difficult to identify the mortal remains as it is understood that some men changed their vehicles when the convoy last halted.

It has, sources said, hence been decided that all those who are allotted a seat in the vehicle will scrupulously stick to the seating plan and re-board the same bus or truck after the convoy resumes post a refreshment break. A sub-officer in the rank of an inspector or a sub-inspector will be responsible for ensuring that the passenger manifest of each vehicle remains intact, they said.

The convoys will also have a changed strategy of havingbullet-proof mobile bunkers which are always deployed at frequent gaps in themotorcade for any armed offensive or defensive action in case of an attack.

Also, each vehicle in the convoy will have armed securitypersonnel as usual, but their numbers and position will be changed dynamicallyand as per operational requirements, they said.

The CRPF, designated lead force for internal security dutiesand anti-militancy operations in Kashmir, is also mulling to create a newfull-fledged transit facility for its troops in Udhampur that will reduce byabout 70 km, the distance between Jammu and Srinagar.

The present transit camp is in Jammu and it takes about10-12 hours for convoys to cover about 300 km between these locations.

A transit facility in Udhampur will reduce the time taken and the risk involved in running convoys, which cannot be done away with completely despite the government recently allowing all personnel to take a flight to Srinagar from either Jammu or Delhi, they said.

The around three lakh personnel strength force has about 65 battalions or about 70,000 personnel deployed in the Kashmir Valley and has two sectors, Kashmir and Kashmir operations, headed by two inspector general rank officers.

CRPF director general R RBhatnagar had last week told the news agency that they are going to procure a new fleet of mine protected vehicles, small 30-seater buses and provide more partial armour to its troop carrying buses to ensure safety of personnel post the Pulwama attack, the worst in the valley on security forces in over three decades.

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