Commercial pilots are being used for air support in anti-Naxal operations, and they want out.
Since September, government-owned Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited has deployed 14 pilots — employed for commercial flying — to fly the Border Security Force’s Dhruv helicopters in Naxal-hit areas. But after three attacks in the last five months on BSF choppers, the pilots have protested the decision to make them fly in the “danger zone”.
They are understood to have made two representations to Pawan Hans saying the Dhruv choppers aren’t equipped for hostile environments and the pilots themselves aren’t given any self-protection kits. “The licence provided by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to commercial pilots… does not permit us to take part in combat operations,” said one pilot.
A top paramilitary officer, however, said Dhruv choppers and Pawan Hans pilots were used for support, not combat.
“Pawan Hans has been given the task to maintain and operate the force’s choppers, but hasn’t been able to meet requirements,” the officer added.
A BSF spokesperson declined to comment while Pawan Hans CMD R.K. Tyagi did not return calls to his mobile phone.
In the most recent incident, a BSF chopper came under fire on Saturday while airlifting injured personnel in Jharkhand. “Five bullets were fired and the fuel tank was damaged but it escaped,” said an official.
CRPF special director general Vijay Raman, in charge of the nationwide operations, confirmed the incident but said: “Preliminary reports by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited suggest no bullet hit the chopper.”