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12 Feb 2017

Boss shunted over CoBRA flight

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, TT, New Delhi, Feb. 11: The Union home ministry has transferred an IPS officer who was in charge of the CoBRA unit after 59 of its rookie commandos fled from a train last week.
Most of the "homesick" commandos, who are part of the CRPF and were on their way to Gaya from a training camp in Jammu and Kashmir, returned to the unit within days.
But the flight had embarrassed the government at a time the morale among paramilitary forces has become a subject of debate with the uploading of a video clip complaining about the quality of the food being served in the BSF.
"Raju Bhargava, the inspector-general who was in charge of the CoBRA unit of the CRPF, has been transferred to Assam. The incident was a major loss of face for the government and the transfer is a punishment of sorts," a senior home ministry official said.
He said the Prime Minister's Office had asked for a report on the incident. "More heads could roll," he added.
Contacted tonight, Bhargava told The Telegraph: "I don't know why I have been transferred."
CRPF director-general K. Durga Prasad had said earlier that all the 59 commandos had rejoined their unit. Home ministry sources, however, said 15 of the commandos were yet to report for work.
Prasad, who will retire this month, did not take calls this evening.
A CRPF officer said some of the commandos had said during the preliminary inquiry that they were "unhappy with the poor condition at the training centre in Srinagar and wanted to return home".
After the CoBRA commandos had fled, the CRPF had said in a statement that they "decided on their own to avail Saturday and Sunday to visit their home without permission" and described the act as gross "misconduct".
Most of the 59 commandos hail from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. As soon as the Jammu Tawi-Sealdah Express had reached Mughalsarai early last Saturday, the commandos assaulted a head constable who was escorting them and fled. They were scheduled to report at the headquarters of the 205 CoBRA unit in Gaya for deployment the next day.
"Such was the panic among the CRPF brass that they declared the commandos deserters. Later, however, the CRPF said it was a case of AWOL (absent without official leave). The home ministry has asked for a detailed report from the CRPF director-general," a senior North Block official said.
The commandos could not be contacted for some time after they fled. On Monday, CRPF officials called them up on their cellphones and asked them to report for duty by Tuesday morning or face arrest.
Sources said the commandos who were yet to return could be declared "deserters" if they did not report by next week.
Once a soldier is declared a "deserter", an arrest warrant is procured from a magistrate's court. A court of inquiry is ordered for going on leave without permission.
The punishment ranges from dismissal from service to a fine of any amount not exceeding a month's pay and allowances.

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