Amid heightened threat to its troops and Amarnath Yatra pilgrims later this year, the CRPF — the lead agency for internal security and conduct of Yatra — is facing a critical shortage of armoured troop carriers to transport the paramilitary personnel in Jammu & Kashmir.
Officials said, the paramilitary is facing a shortage of up to 40 per cent of the sanctioned strength, a figure being withheld in order to avoid any risk to the troopers from the terrorists in the Valley.
The preparation for the Amarnath Yatra begins in March and a meeting was held in the Home Ministry for procurement of the armoured troop carriers, sources said.
The shortage of the armoured troop carriers has accrued over the years as the paramilitary has not been able to procure bullet proof vehicles from Original Equipment Manufacturers during the last one decade, leading to an alarming shortfall in such vehicles, they said.
The security forces especially the CRPF is facing enhanced threat from the terror groups post-abrogation of Article 370 and reorganisation of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh, officials said, adding approvals for procurement of the specialised vehicles are yet to see the light of the day despite the Pulwama incident last year in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed while travelling in a convoy consisting of non-armoured buses.
“The sanctioned numbers of bullet-proof bunker vehicles are badly needed as additional deployment of 25 battalions of the CRPF was made in the Valley in anticipation of aggravated law and order situation following nullification of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir,” an official said.
The Amarnath Yatra that is held between July and August is estimated to be tough from the security perspective as it will be the first such Yatra to be conducted after change in the special status of J&K.
The terror groups are also seeking to find traction among the youth as the jehadi ranks are facing crisis due to the wiping out of the terror leadership in the Valley owing to counter-terror action by the security forces in the last two years.
Last year, the Amarnath Yatra was called off midway ahead of the decision to scrap Article 370 on August 5 as a well calculated move to avoid any risk to the pilgrims.
In 2017, Amarnath pilgrims were targeted by the terrorists in July 2017 in which eight religious tourists were killed and over 30 others injured.
Likewise, in June 2016, the banned terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba ambushed a convoy of CRPF vehicles in Pampore and killed eight uniformed men of the paramilitary and injuring over 20 others.