Bahadurgarh (Patiala), July 19:
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday hailed the newly-trained SOG Commandos as a critical engine to boost the state’s preparedness in countering terror in the transformed scenario, which had made the earlier SWAT irrelevant, and promised his government’s full support to further strengthen the new unit.
Interacting with the trainee Special Operations Group (SOG) commandos at the Commando Training Centre here, the Chief Minister said the use of non-conventional means of warfare by terrorists and militants had necessitated the transformation of the state’s counter-terror apparatus.
The Chief Minister was interacting with the trainee SOG commandos after witnessing various drills performed by them to showcase their capabilities and preparedness. A total of 186 commandos (158 trainees and 17 instructors) participated in the drills, which included physical fitness, firing skills, field tactics, Rappelling and Slithering techniques, Jummaring, Storming and Building Intervention. The instructors included elite trainers from the Indian Army, Para Special Forces, CPOs and NSG, inducted into the Punjab Police as a special case.
Underlining the need for such a specialized force, the Chief Minister observed that the intensity and gravity of fidayeen strikes on Dinangar Police Station and on Pathankot air base had major ramifications for the border state. Though the frequency of militant related incidents had come down considerably post conventional militancy period, there now existed a new and graver threat in the form of unconventional militancy, he added.
Noting that the dangers now emanate from both local militant outfits as well as cross border militant organisations like LeT, United Jehad Council, Jaish-E-Mohammed and Al Qaida, the Chief Minister said that Punjab’s vulnerability to infiltration and smuggling of narcotics due to its geographical location had become more pronounced in recent years. The state shares an international border of 553 KMs with Pakistan, besides 70 KNs boundary with Jammu and Kashmir, which makes it easy prey for drug smugglers, peddlers and militants, said Captain Amarinder Singh.
SWAT, with its limited strength as well as absence of any system of phasing out, separate financial allocation and induction of new talent, could not serve the current counter-terrorism needs, said the Chief Minister. In contrast, the newly formed SOG had a strength of 10 times more than SWAT, with provisions for separate budget, promotional avenues, postings to districts after fixed tenure, and induction of new talent, he added.
Lauding the trainee SOGs, who would be completing their inaugural course by August end, Captain Amarinder Singh said the responsibility of safeguarding the state’s frontiers lies on their strong shoulders.
In his introductory remarks, DGP Suresh Arora said the need for a specialized force was felt after the Dinanagar attack, which was finally translated into reality by the Chief Minister with his decision to set up SOG in August last year. The total training period of 12 weeks for the SOG commandos would include specialized training by international forces, he said, adding that the possibility of sending them to Israel for training would also be explored.
The DGP said a zero revenue model had been followed in raising the SOG battalion, as the expenditure involved was equivalent to the amount spent on raising a normal battalion.
Besides his Media Advisor Raveen Thukral and Advisor BIS Chahal, the Chief Minister was also accompanied by DGP (Law & Order) Hardeep Singh Dhillon, ADGP Commando Rakesh Chandra, ADGP SOG Training Jatinder Kumar Jain, IG Jalandhar Range, Naunihal Singh, IG Patiala A S Rai, IG Ferozepur Range Gurinder Singh Dhillon, IG Border Range S P S Parmar, SSP Patiala Mandeep Singh Sidhu and DC Patiala Amit Kumar.