Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chopper for anti-Maoist operations flies ministers instead

Ranchi, May 15 (IANS) The Jharkhand government shelled out Rs.350 million on a helicopter to be used during anti-Maoist operations, but policemen say it is ferrying ministers instead. An indigenously manufactured Dhruv helicopter was purchased last year by the government from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for surveillance and rescue operations.

The chopper was grounded for more than four months for two reasons. First, the state government made a delayed payment to HAL and, second, there was no trained pilot to fly it. It finally began operations early this year after both the bottlenecks were cleared.

But, according to police sources, it has already flown 160 hours in the last two months. Chief Minister Madhu Koda and his ministers use it to visit different parts of the state.

“We hardly get the chopper for anti-Maoist operations. When we plan to launch an operation by using the helicopter, we are informed that it is being used by ministers,” a senior police official told IANS.

The helicopter could not be used to lift two security personnel in Hazaribagh district Sunday after they were injured in a gun battle with Maoists.

Police wanted to lift the injured security personnel by using the chopper but were told that it had developed a technical snag and was at the hanger for maintenance. Both the security personnel died.

“We had requested for the helicopter so that the injured security personnel could be rescued. We were informed that the Dhruv had developed a technical snag,” said Ajay Kumar Singh, deputy inspector general of police, Hazaribagh range.

Koda issued an advisory last week to ministers to use a vehicle instead of the helicopter to travel inside the state.

The state police association has demanded the use of the helicopter for anti-Maoist operations.

“Our men (security personnel) could have been saved if the chopper had been used to rescue them. The helicopter is used for everything except for anti-Maoist operations, surveillance and rescue operations. We demand that the chopper be used by the police only,” said Ashok Pathak, vice president of the Jharkhand Police Association

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