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SPOs in Naxalite belts get 300% hike in wages

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 19, 2007

NEW DELHI: With the Salwa Judum experiment going awry and exposing the local civilians employed as special police officers (SPOs) to Naxal backlash, the Centre is attempting damage control by acknowledging their role in counter-extremist operations with a hike in ex-gratia compensation for an SPO to Rs 3 lakh from Rs 1 lakh.

The increased death compensation for an SPO — finalised at a meeting of the security-related expenditure (SRE) mechanism headed by special secretary(internal security) M L Kumawat here on Tuesday, will bring him on par with police personnel who also get Rs 3 lakh in the event of death during deployment in a Naxal-infested area.

SPOs are essentially local civilians from Naxal-infested areas who are appointed on a honorarium basis to assist the police in counter-operations by providing ground-level intelligence and guiding the police teams to Naxal hideouts hidden away in deep forests.

The SPOs are provided arms during the day but have to deposit them at night. They have often been targetted by the Naxalites who go after them when they are unarmed and hence unable to defend themselves. This phenomenon has been more pronounced in Chattisgarh, where the Salwa Judum movement, a popular uprising against Naxals, gained momentum even as the forces failed to do enough to insulate the local civilians and SPOs against a Naxal backlash.

In one of the deadliest Naxal attacks this year, CPI(Maoist) cadres had descended on the Rani Bodli camp in Dantewada and killed 55 police personnel in all, of which 39 were SPOs.

SPOs, in the event of death, were until now entitled to a compensation of only Rs 1 lakh while regular security personnel got Rs 3 lakh.

The SRE scheme reimburses expenditure incurred by the states on ammunition, training and upgradation of police posts. At present 76 districts in nine states badly affected by Naxal violence are covered under the scheme.

Out of an annual budget of Rs 50 crore under SRE, Rs.14 crore has already been released till August this year and an equal amount will be released soon for making ex-gratia payments, a senior MHA official said.

The SRE scheme was comprehensively revised in 2005 to enhance the level of utilisation of funds and so far, Rs 175.55 crore has been disbursed to the States under the scheme.

During 2005-06, the total budget outlay of Rs 45 crore was spent as against the average expenditure of Rs 9-10 crore in the previous years.

Naxal hit states have found the scheme very useful in improving ground level police response in dealing with the problem, described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the single biggest threat to internal security.

The scheme has been extended for a further period of five years till 2011. Statistics in the home ministry show that there have been 1509 incidents of Naxal attacks in the country so far this year, 157 police personnel, 521 civilians and 272 Naxalities have been killed.


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