Naxal-hit states to supplement chopper fleet; plan big hiring

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 18:08

New Delhi: Five states hit by Naxal violence
want to acquire additional fleet of helicopters for operation,
planning to rope in private players to hire them as the
government chopper fleet has "limited" flying hours and
pilots.

The prominent states which need more helicopters to
tackle the Naxal threat "effectively" are Orissa, Chhattisgarh
and Maharashtra while states like Jharkhand and Bihar also
want to supplement their air fleet.
The states underlined their problems of dearth of the
flying machines and their importance in Naxal-affected areas
at the internal security conference of Chief Ministers with
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held here recently.

"The BSF helicopter fleet, provided by the Centre and
operated by the Indian Air Force, has many limitations. They
have strict and limited time limit for sorties. The fleet has
about two Mi-17 and four ALH Dhruv helicopters which are
hard-pressed catering to six to seven Naxal-affected states,"
sources involved in anti-Naxal operations said.
"The Union Home Ministry has asked us to hire from
private players and hence many states have formulated policies
to hire these machines on a long-term basis," they said.

Speaking at the conference on February 1, Orissa Chief
Minister Naveen Patnaik asked the Centre to consider "placing
dedicated military helicopters at the state capital
Bhubaneshwar and in Koraput" to respond to any exigency and
move into interiors for deep penetration operations.

He said as per the Home Ministry`s advice, the state
government was also negotiating with commercial organisations
to avail dedicated helicopter services for security forces.

"The helicopters are the most vital equipment for combat
forces in Naxal areas as they help in quick evacuation of
injured policemen and others, while also assisting in sending
reinforcements in case of emergency," sources said.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, during the
conference, asked the Centre to make arrangements and send a
helicopter, currently kept at Raipur in Chhattisgarh, to
Nagpur for security and anti-Naxal operations.

The Chhattisgarh government has recently floated tenders
to acquire two helicopters from private operators and position
them at Jagdalpur for counter-Naxal duties.

Two heli-bases at Ranchi and Raipur are presently
operational for Naxal duties and according to rules, the six
helicopters -- two Mi-17 and four Advanced Light Helicopters
(ALH) `Dhruvs` -- have a fixed time limit of flying for 80
hours in a month to cater to states like Chhattisgarh,
Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa among others.

The BSF is also recruiting pilots and co-pilots for the
wing and plans to complete the process by July this year.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 18:08

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