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Typo? 87 missing Army men turn into paper
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
In a major faux pas, the Punjab Police has made a hash of forwarding an important message received from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, issuing a security alert for the Republic Day celebrations.

The message sent on January 15, listed 87 Army personnel whose identity cards had gone missing since December 2006. The police heads were asked to ensure that these were not misused by militants in trying to gain entry into various venues of the Republic Day celebrations.

However, two different wings of the Punjab Police forwarded two different interpretations of the same message to the district officers. For the security wing, 87 Army men of a unit had gone missing and for the intelligence wing I-Cards of these 87 Army men of a unit had gone missing.

The teleprinter message forwarded by the security wing officials at the Punjab Police headquarters on January 22 quoted the message as: “According to inputs of central security agencies, 87 Army personnel posted in a unit have been missing since December ’06 as per the list enclosed. It is further stated that in view of frequents inputs that militants would try to acquire identity cards of government officers to gain access to sensitive locations, it is necessary that all personnel deployed on security duty be sensitised about the matter, particularly in view of the forthcoming Republic Day celebrations, both in Delhi and in the states.”

The message sent by the intelligence wing officials, however, stated: “It has been learnt that 87 identity cards of Army personnel posted in a unit have been missing since December 14, 2006. Enquiries regarding the matter are underway by the authorities. (list of identity cards is enclosed)”.

While the security wing forwarded the messages to all district SSPs, range and zonal IGs, the intelligence wing forwarded the message to the SSPs alone.

“It was a strange message which seemed unbelievable at first. However, we did try to get in touch with the security wing officials for clarification. Since at our level there is no message from the intelligence wing, we are still under the impression that Army personnel are missing,” said Mr SK Sharma, IG, Patiala Range.

While DGP RS Gill could not be contacted, sources in his office confirmed that the intelligence wing had sent the correct message and a typographical error in the teleprinter message had led to the confusion.

Meanwhile, Punjab Police has been asked to be on high alert for the Republic Day celebrations. The directions issued by the government of India state that since a large number of defence personnel are likely to be on duty during these celebrations, supervisory officers should ensure that they are identified.

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