2017 polls may see highest deployment of SFs
Source: The Sangai Express / TNN
New Delhi, February 15 2017:
With little headway in efforts to end the economic block-ade in Manipur, the upco- ming assembly polls in the state may see one of the highest deployment of Central para-military forces in the recent times.
Sources in the Home Ministry on Tuesday said that around 20,000 troops deployed in parts of UP covered in the first few phases of polling, may be diverted to Manipur over the next 15 days.
According to force deployment details accessed by TOI, while 16,000 troops are already deployed in Manipur to help the state government clear National Highway-2, along which Naga frontal group United Naga Council has been enforcing a blockade for over past three months.
The Manipur High Court, which is hearing a plea pertaining to the blockade, has asked the Centre to post an additional 7,500 troops.
The Centre, meanwhile, has already asked the 8 battalions of Assam Rifles stationed in Manipur to be utilised for clearing NH-2.However, there is little progress in getting the highway cleared, with the state government reportedly unwilling to use force against women protestors blocking the road.
"Over the next 15 days, the Central para-military troops disengaged following end of polling phases in UP will be shifted to Mani-pur as a preparatory mea- sure ahead of polling on March 4 and 8," said a home ministry officer.
Incidentally, the Home Ministry feels the law and order situation in hill areas of Manipur, which are going to polls on March 8, is not conducive either for campaigning by the candidates and political parties or for safe and secure movement of polling personnel.
Sources said around 17-18 assembly constituencies in the hill areas may be affected.
"Even if the option of airlifting polling personnel is available, it is not possible to arrange choppers for 1,600 personnel required for polling across 20 constituencies," said an officer.
However, considering that polls have to be conducted in the state and a new assembly put in place by March 18, when the term of the existing assembly expires, the solution may lie in concentrating as many Central forces in the state as possible.
"With the last phase covering only a few constituencies of UP, it is possible to post a good chunk of the 87,000 troops allotted for polls across five states, in Manipur," said an officer.