Red-faced Chhattisgarh government cracks down on officials


Raipur : After the embarrassing mass jailbreak in the Maoist stronghold of Dantewada and with elections due in a year, Chhattisgarh’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is cracking down on senior officials in its bid overhaul its image.

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Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and Home Minster Ramvichar Netam have admitted that Sunday’s incident – in which 299 people escaped from the Dantewada jail in a smooth 10-minute operation – was a “clear case of security lapses”.

They said that officials posted in the jail department in the capital Raipur and those responsible for security at the Dantewada jail had let down the government.

But the government got into action only late Monday when hundreds of police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel returned after a daylong search of Dantewada’s thick forests without tracing even one of those who had escaped. Of 299 people who broke out of the jail, about 100 include Maoist rebels.

On Monday evening, an irate Raman Singh ordered the suspension of Chhattisgarh’s Deputy Inspector General (Jail) P.D. Verma for not carrying out a routine inspection of the state’s jails that are vulnerable to Maoist attacks.

Besides, Dantewada jailer B.S. Mankar was arrested after a raid on his house led to police unearthing evidence about his “good association with jail breakout mastermind”, 25-year-old Maoist commander Sujeet Kumar Rao from Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, said an official.

The government has also decided to issue notices to Director General (Jail) Sant Kumar Paswan, Inspector General (Bastar Range) R.K. Vij and Dantewada district Superintendent Of Police Rahul Sharma for inadequate security arrangements at Dantewada jail.

“We will not let any official of any rank who is either directly or indirectly involved in (the) shameful Sunday breakout go free. I have sent several letters to senior officials in the past to look into the security issue of Dantewada jail but my instructions were overlooked,” Netam told reporters after the opposition Congress sought his resignation.

The jailbreak dominated the agenda of a crucial meeting of the BJP called here Monday and presided over by the party’s national secretary Dharmendra Pradhan.

Though the meeting was called to discuss strategy on the assembly polls due in October-November next year, the chief minister listened as top leaders linked the incident to the government’s competence.

Of the 299 prisoners who escaped, police have managed to arrest only three facing minor charges and three others who surrendered.

The Dantewada district has been cordoned off, neighbouring Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have sounded an alert in the border districts to help Chhattisgarh catch them but the jailed ultras have probably sneaked into their Abujhmad forest hideouts, entirely under the control of rebels and protected by landmines all around, a top police official told IANS Tuesday.