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Helicopters unavailable for anti-Naxal operations

Last Updated: Sunday, May 8, 2011 - 15:37

Raipur/New Delhi: Only one helicopter is
catering to over 70,000 central police troops deployed for
anti-Naxal operations as six other choppers -- emergency
lifelines during casualty evacuation and reinforcements-- are
out of service for various reasons for almost two months.

Government has deployed a fleet of seven helicopters --
four of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and three Advanced Light
Helicopter (ALH) `Dhruvs` of the BSF -- for use by 72
battalions of the CRPF, BSF, ITBP and local police units of
the states. They have their bases at Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and
Ranchi (Jharkhand).

The choppers are the most vital machine when it comes
to troop deployment, casualty evacuation and sending
reinforcements to assist anti-Naxal operations.

Top sources in the air wing said that while two
`Dhruvs` are gathering dust at the Raipur airbase for the last
two months as their spare parts are not available, the third
is with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as it has
clocked 500 flying hours after which it needs servicing.

From the fleet of the IAF, one Mi-17 has been sent to
West Bengal for election purposes, while the other has been
given to the Chhattisgarh government for movement of VIPs and
top officials in the state and the third has already clocked
its stipulated flying hours and is getting serviced.

With only one IAF chopper left for all anti-Naxal
operations spread across the vast expanse of various states,
priority-setting of tasks for the lone machine has become a
difficult task.

"We have to rationalise the sorties of the lone
helicopter very minutely. One has to see if a trooper who is
bleeding in the deep forests after an operation should be
evacuated or the chopper should be sent with additional
reinforcements to an SOS call made by a patrol party fighting
Naxals," an official involved in the operations said.

While officials of the central forces rue that the
rule of having only 80 hours of flying time for the choppers
in a month is not helping them, the IAF, according to official
records, has flown sorties over this time-limit keeping in
mind such exigencies.

"It has been communicated to the headquarters in New
Delhi to extend this 80-hour time limit many times but nothing
has come about. The IAF has brought out the 80-hour rule as it
has to maintain the serviceability of these machines as per
standards," a senior officer said.

It is a sad fact that security personnel fighting in
such difficult terrain where vehicular movement is absolutely
barred due to fear of hidden landmines and IEDs have no
immediate help at their hand, a paramilitary officer said on
condition of anonymity.

"There is no dispute or problem in the operation of
the helicopters fleet for anti-Naxal duties. There are certain
operational constraints...because these are new helicopters
and they need to be serviced frequently. They are not always
available, round-the-clock... they are not like cars," BSF
chief Raman Srivastava, under whose command the fleet
operates, had said last year in Delhi.


First Published: Sunday, May 8, 2011 - 15:37
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