Wounded CRPF men in Naxal areas suffer despite big spending on choppers

by IANS |

New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) Despite spending big on helicopters to facilitate injured Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel during operations in Naxal areas, a struggle persists for air evacuations.

According to the annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for 2020-21, the Centre has allocated Rs 150 crore for providing helicopter facilities to the security forces in the Naxal-affected areas to deal with any emergency.

As per this report, the MHA released Rs 109 crore to the central forces for 2019-20, while Rs 69.35 crore was disbursed for the use of helicopters during 2020-21. It is estimated that around Rs 50 crore was also spent on providing the helicopter (chopper) facilities under 'Assistance to Central Agency for Left Wing Extremism (LWE) Management Scheme'.

Under this scheme, helicopters are hired by the CRPF, Central Armed Police Forces, as well as other central agencies.

Normally, the chopper service is provided by the Indian Air Force and is used for both operational and tactical support of the security forces operating in Naxal-affected areas.

Commenting on the availability of the helicopters during such operations, sources in the central security forces said that there should be a fair audit of the expenditure incurred on the chopper services and also to examine that how much has been spent on the evacuations of the injured security personnel.

"It must be evaluated and an analysis must be made that how many chopper rounds were made for evacuating the injured jawans. t has also to be ascertained whether the helicopters were ready in areas when the major operations begin. Does the helicopter arrive on time to take the injured jawans?" the sources queried.

They also said that there should be an analysis of the helicopters' log books to know how many flights were conducted.

However, some senior CRPF officers, on the condition of anonymity, said the choppers hired or requisitioned from the Border Security Force are being used for officers from headquarter and frontiers to the operational areas as it saves time and other logistic support.

In Naxal-prone areas, officers are not supposed to travel by road due to security reasons.

In February, CRPF Assistant Commandant Bibhor Kumar Singh was injured in an IED blast Bihar perpetrated by the Maoists. Due to a delay in his evacuation to a super speciality hospital, his legs had to be amputated when he was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

CRPF officials had said that Singh could not be airlifted because of the bad weather and he had to wait in the district hospital for the night.

CRPF DG Kuldeep Singh took the onus on himself and had said: "I consider myself responsible for this painful incident."

In the wake of the incident, CRPF officials said that it was high time that the Force should have its own air wing being operated by the CRPF's pilot

Ranbir Singh, President of the Confederation of Ex-Paramilitary Forces Martyrs Welfare Association, said that the MHA should intervene in the matter and examine the flight records whether the services were tactical in nature or was it used for other purposes.

Retired officers of the central security forces also said that there has been a huge lack of coordination in the CAPF regarding the chopper service.

"When an operation is going on in an area, a helicopter should be ready at the base camp. No one knows when it is needed... But it must be ready to evacuate the injured jawans," they said.

They also suggested that the CAPFs should have all weather choppers which can land during day and night, similar to the one that the Indian Air Force have.

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