Anti-Maoist operations in C''garh will need on private copters

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Raipur, Jan 24 (PTI) Police and other security forcesdeployed for conducting anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarhwill have to depend on private helicopters as government''s airfleet is constrained by time limitations.

The Chhattisgarh police, hit by the under-availabilityof the rotary wing aircraft on certain occasions, has extendedby one year the lease that it had executed with privateplayers to hire helicopters for anti-Naxal operations lastyear. These copters are used to send in reinforcements andevacuate injured troops.

The state police, which already has the facility ofusing the BSF air fleet based here, is constrained by timelimits set by the BSF air wing which is operated by theIndian Air Force (IAF). The step has been taken so that theoperations and other casualty evacuation duties do not suffer,police sources said.

According to rules, the four helicopters-- includingtwo Mi-17 and an equal number of Advanced Light Helicopters(ALH) ''Dhruvs''-- have a fixed time limit of flying for 80hours for a month and also cater to other states likeJharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa, which are also hit byMaoists, for operational duties.

"So, if we require a helicopter for an operation orevacuation, we find the BSF air fleet has either clocked theirofficial flight time or are gone to some other place. Hence,we have decided to extend the lease of our two privatechoppers and have invited fresh bids," a senior officerdeputed for anti-Naxal operations said.

Another senior officer in the Naxal grid said althoughhelicopters are "everytime made available" for importantmissions, on occasions the time limit and because of the fleetcatering to many states, certain hurdles do crop up.

Border Security Force (BSF) chief Raman Srivastavahad last year talked about "certain operational constraints"in the full-time serviceability of the helicopters'' fleetdeployed for anti-Naxal duties as the new ''Dhruvs'' need to be"serviced frequently."

"There is no dispute or problem in the operation ofthe helicopters fleet for anti-Naxal duties. But there arecertain operational constraints...because these are newhelicopters and they need to be serviced frequently. They arenot always available, round-the-clock..they are not likecars," Srivastava had said.

He had said filling of vacant posts for pilots isalso an area that needs to be addressed.

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