In a bid to salvage its face and pride the Kerala police on Monday at the behest of the Pinayari Vijayan government made an overt bid to prove to the public that the 25 assault rifles flagged as missing by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) were in their safe custody.
In a shocking revelation, the CAG in its report on the audit of modernisation of weapons in Kerala Police found that 25 rifles and 12,061 live cartridges were missing from Special Armed Police Battalion (SAPB). The audit authority also noted a violation of the stores purchase manual and guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission in the procurement of equipment. Moreover, the CAG also found that the state police had diverted funds meant for strengthening operations in Maoist-infested areas to procure vehicles for VIP security. The return of the Communist government in Kerala had already sparked concerns that the Pinarayi Vijayan led government would go soft on the Maoists and it is, unfortunately, being proven true courtesy the lax behaviour in handling firearms and ammunition.
In a rather peculiar move, the Kerala police allowed television newspersons into the bell of arms room to record visuals of Mr. Tomin Thachankary, ADGP, Crime Branch counting body number of each rifle and physically examining and verifying with the records. As many as 647 INSAS automatic rifles of the total 660 rifles with the state armed police battalion were displayed and physically counted as the remaining 13 rifles were being used by the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) recruits training with the BSF in Manipur.
According to a TOI report, on the missing cartridges, Thachankary said an investigation was on and it would be completed in two months. He said the immediate custodians of the ammunition, as well as higher-ups, would be made answerable for any lapse. The CAG in its report about the missing firearms had said “The entries in the Stock Registers had many over writings, use of white correction fluid and striking off of entries, etc. The entries and corrections were not properly authenticated. The audit could not find any evidence of the conduct of periodical physical verification by higher officers from the records available at SAPB,”
The opposition Congress in Kerala led by Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala launched a direct attack against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the CAG report and has upped the ante whilst demanding for a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the case of missing weapons and live ammunition alleging that such serious corruption cannot take place without his knowledge. He asked in Kottayam why the police could not convince the CAG about the whereabouts of the weapons despite repeated queries from auditors. Moreover, the CAG had physically verified the weapon stick and recorded the shortage. It seems like the government has attempted to trivialise the “dissappearence” of lethal arms from the police armoury.
Either the CAG has got its audit wrong or the state government is hiding something, whatever the case may be one thing is clear as a day that the Maoists are having a field day with such an incompetent government in the state and if the firearms and ammunition go missing like this, there are indeed bad days ahead.
Intel agencies have also raised issues about Maoism spreading the fastest in places that have the least government penetration and consequently, maximum dissatisfaction against the state. It is no wonder that all the districts fall in Kerala – Wayanad, Mallapuram, Kannur, Kozhikode and Palakkad districts of Kerala. An intel report submitted to Kerala said, “Due to frequent operations by (forces of) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Naxals were forced to flee towards the jungle areas of Kerala. But for Kerala, combing operation is new to them and requires assistance. Kerala has vast unexplored jungle areas.” At such a precarious time, the state machinery should be on high alert but it seems that the state government and police have different priorities. The state is glaringly ill-prepared to counter any Maoist adventurism.