Srinagar: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoys moving to and from the Kashmir Valley will now be commandeered by a Superintendent of Police-rank officer, the paramilitary force has ordered in the wake of the Pulwama attack in which 40 personnel were killed during a similar movement.
It also said a single motorcade will not have more than 40 vehicles at any point of time.
News agency PTI has accessed a set of new standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the force headquarters in New Delhi for vehicle-mounted movement of troops in Jammu and Kashmir, and it has also been ordered that the “passenger manifest discipline” for each vehicle in the convoy be strictly adhered to.
Among the first set of changed SOPs is the move to depute a second-in-command rank officer (equivalent to Superintendent of Police rank) of the force to lead the convoy instead of the current practice of a junior Assistant Commandant-rank (Assistant SP) officer heading the entourage.
This is to ensure that the convoy is led by an experienced and senior officer who will have a better clairvoyance and strategy to manoeuvre the convoy to and from the Kashmir Valley which is operationally very sensitive due to terrorist acts and IED threats, official sources said.
This will also upgrade the accountability hierarchy and the new convoy commander will now directly report and co-ordinate with one of the three CRPF Deputy Inspector General (operations) based in Kashmir.
Till now, the convoy commander or the Assistant Commandant used to report through the Commandant to their higher-ups.
The convoy commander usually travels in the lead in a communications gadget-fitted vehicle comprising armed troops for quick reaction.
It has also been decided that the convoy strength will not go beyond 40 vehicles in any case and “all possible efforts” will be made to essentially keep the number of vehicles in a motorcade to the least possible of about 10-20 for effective management and control, they said.
A CRPF bus in the fifth position of a 78 vehicle convoy was targeted by a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide bomber after he detonated his explosives-laden SUV near it on the Jammu-Srinagar highway in Pulwama on February 14.