As a paramilitary force, CRPF is not allowed to tap phones, or mount surveillance on the internet, social media and other platforms

NEW DELHI: Having lost 46 men in three major Maoist ambushes in Chhattisgarh since March 11, 2017, CRPF has asked the government to give it “technical surveillance” powers so independent real-time intelligence can be collected for counter-insurgency operations and loss of jawans’ lives in such action can be brought down.

Presently, the Central Reserve Police Force, which deals with insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, 10 left-wing extremism (LWE) affected states and the North-East, depends on intelligence inputs from Intelligence Bureau (IB), NIA, NTRO and state police forces to know about large movements of Naxalites, militants in J&K, their future plans and other operational details of the ultras.

As a paramilitary force, CRPF is not allowed to tap phones, or mount surveillance on the internet, social media and other platforms. On the other hand, state police forces like Telangana and Chhattisgarh have the best in class surveillance facilities as they are allowed to gather intelligence, due to which their men conduct anti-Naxal operations with minimum loss of lives, said sources.

Apart from the states, central agencies empowered under Indian Telegraph Act to conduct surveillance include – IB, NIA, DRI, ED, I-T, NCB, CBI and NTRO. According to sources, CRPF proposed to the government it be given permission for technical surveillance. The demand has been raised several times in the past as well, but internal security experts say giving ‘phone tapping’ powers to the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) seems far-fetched as it is considered ‘controversial.’

“I don’t think any government will give phone-tapping capabilities to CRPF or any other paramilitary force for that matter. It (CRPF) has been given drones to see the movement (of Naxals) from a distance. Anyway, Maoists are very cautious in using phones. They pass information through their couriers in the jungle,” said former Union home secretary G K Pillai.

A senior MHA official told TOI, “Giving tapping powers to CAPF is not possible. It will lead to lack of coordination issues among the central agencies. There is already a very good mechanism in place of sharing intelligence through Multi-Agency Centre (MAC).” CRPF lost nine men in an IED explosion in Sukma on March 13. Earlier, in an ambush in Sukma on April 2, 2017, 25 CRPF men were killed by Maoists. This was a month after 12 CRPF jawans were killed in an ambush in Bhejji, Sukma.

Meanwhile, speaking at CRPF’s 79th anniversary on Saturday, home minister Rajnath Singh said the Naxalism challenge has entered its last leg and Maoists are now resorting to ‘cowardly’ ambushes against security forces as they are unable to engage in a direct fight. “I can say that the LWE problem in the country has entered its last leg and the people very well understand that Naxals are anti-poor, anti-tribal and anti development,” said Singh. Lauding the force, he asked CRPF men to continue rendering their “multidimensional” role in various theatres like insurgency in the Kashmir valley and the North-East. “You have always given a muh tod jawab (befitting reply) to these activities,” Singh said.