Saviour picket in peril now

Everyday essentials, including water, took priority over security for personnel deputed at Bargarh picket a day after the Maoist landmine explosion on January 21, a reminder that the demands of living had more urgent claims than the fear of death.

Yesterday afternoon at the picket under Bhandaria in Garhwa, The Telegraph was eyewitness to jawans attired in lungi and gamchha, going to Bargarh village armed with nothing more than buckets and plastic bottles. Some were headed to the Sunday village market to buy items ranging from atta to torches.

The 50-odd jawans of JAP-3 knew that villagers could be hand in glove with rebels. At the same time, the jawans also knew that they were responsible for whatever sense of security that prevailed among 4,000 villagers of Bargarh, Tehri and Paraswar panchayats. After all, before the picket — hardly a kilometre from the Chhattisgarh border — came into being in 2009, villagers cowered before rebels.

“Thanks to this picket, for the last two years, the Tricolour gets hoisted at Bhandaria block office on Independence Day and Republic Day. Earlier, Maoists used to unfurl black flags at block offices on these days,” said a resident.

But as far as rebuilding a sense of security among the personnel after the January 21 tragedy goes, no one is bothered.

Havildar Tejpal Singh said as much.

“Seniors leave us without guidance or support after deputing us to pickets. They want results without logistic support,” he said.

On prodding, he added: “Despite knowing that we played a key role in pushing the Maoists back on January 21, our seniors have not boosted our morale.”

Havildar Deenbandhu Yadav added: “We have to bring water from outside, as we have one hand pump and the water is too dirty and too little to be of much use. As far as the selection of the place is concerned, our seniors pick the site. What can we do?”

But when asked why water was not brought with proper safety measures, he had no reply. “We have asked for another hand pump from our in-charge, Shibu Kujur,” he said, side-stepping the question.

Kujur admitted to the lacunae of infrastructure but said efforts to remedy matters were on. “Demands of the jawans for water have been communicated to the superintendent of police,” he said, but did not speak on whether the location of the picket was wise.

The SP, Michaelraj S., however, denied any water-related problem.

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