Concerned over the loss of lives of security personnel in anti-naxal operations due to delays in evacuation, the government has now ordered the air support fleet in such areas to ensure that there is at least one helicopter for casualty extraction duty always.
At present, nine helicopters of Indian Air Force and the Border Security Force are deployed for duties like troop dispatch, rushing reinforcements, transporting senior officers, VIPs and taking troops on leave to and from their outposts apart from undertaking casualty evacuation sorties.
"The air wing deployed for anti-naxal operations will ensure that at least one helicopter is essentially available for casualty evacuation duties and responding to SOS from injured troops will be their topmost priority," BSF Special Director General Arvind Ranjan said.
However, no night sorties can be conducted at present.
The BSF operates the air wing for supporting troops of Central Reserve Police Force, BSF, Indo-Tibetan Border Patrol and state police forces in naxal-affected states.
More than 150 troops were killed last year in these operations while a number of casualties, according to commanders deployed on the ground, can be avoided if injured troops could be rushed for immediate medical help.
"The sorties however have to be rationalised and prioritised keeping in mind the serviceability and inspection schedules of these machines so that they remain flying fit," Ranjan said.
He said the air-wing of the force is also undergoing several changes and recently the force has notified fresh guidelines for recruitment of new pilots.
"We are also training our pilots at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore for recruitment in the air wing," Ranjan said.
Out of the total nine helicopters, four MI-17 choppers of the IAF are located in Chhattisgarh, two each at Raipur and Jagdalpur, while amongst the five 'Dhruv' Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) of the BSF, three are placed at Raipur and two at Ranchi in Jharkhand.
Helicopters are the most vital machines when it comes to assisting troops deployed in far-flung areas. More than 70,000 troops are catered to by these machines in various states.