Paswan's security may be upgraded

A day after the landmine blasts — carried out by Maoists in Naxal-infested Midnapore district — in which two Union ministers along with  the West Bengal chief minister had a narrow escape, the Centre on Monday sought a detailed report from the state asking how such a major "security lapse" took place at the time when the entire travel route was supposed to be sanitized during the VIP visit.

Initial reports, which pointed to the use of a 1.2 kilometre-long wire to detonate the landmine, made the officials here more intrigued. Since the Maoists did not use any timer device, no one seemed to be clear as who could be the real target when the spot where the landmine was planted crossed not only by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya but also by Union ministers Ramvilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada. A senior home ministry official said that only the detailed inquiry — which the state has already initiated — would reveal the truth.

The home ministry's move to seek the report on "security lapse" from the state came on the day when both the Union ministers — Paswan and Prasada — sought a high level inquiry into the incident. While Lok Janshakti Party wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking Z-plus security for its chief Paswan, Prasada shot a letter to home minister Shivraj Patil requesting him to take up the matter immediately with state government.

Officials in the home ministry, meanwhile, said the security of Paswan, who already has 'Z' category security, could be enhanced after an assessment. "We will certainly look into the matter soon," said a senior official without giving any time-frame.

Since the preliminary report shared by the state with the home ministry did not go beyond narrating the incident, officials here believed that had the police followed a basic security drill of sending a Road Opening Party, the attack could have been easily prevented.

Minister of state for steel Jitin Prasada also accused the West Bengal police of adopting a "casual approach" in providing security to central ministers.

The area is a Naxalite-affected area and security agencies of the state, which were supposed to be responsible for the security, "did not do their job properly", Prasada's office said in a statement.

The blast was detonated by a wire which was about 1.2 km long. "This shows the casual approach of the state police when it comes to security of Union ministers," it charged.

The statement also said the state police wrongly projected that it was an attack on the chief minister. "In fact, Bhattacharya had already left in a different convoy," it said.

Officials here also do not rule out the Maoists' objection to the upcoming steel project in the region as one of the reasons behind the attack. Referring to the Naxalites' stated objective to oppose any such project not only in West Bengal but also in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, an official said the attack could have been a step in that direction.