Govt tells forces to hire choppers for anti-naxal ops

The Union home ministry has decided against hiring armoured helicopters for anti-Maoist operations again after it nearly landed in a soup over leasing six MI-17 choppers last year.

"A decision has been taken that the home ministry should not get into direct procurement or hiring... This should be done by the security forces concerned which will refer the deal to the home ministry for scrutiny," a source told HT.

In case of the anti-Maoist operations, the CRPF has been told to hire choppers.

The move comes months after home secretary RK Singh cancelled the Letter of Intent for wet leasing 6 choppers from Global Vectra - UT Air consortium in October.

Global Vectra is the aviation arm of the Ravi Rishi's Vectra Group that faces charges of trying to bribe former army chief General V K Singh for purchase of trucks.

The only official reason cited for cancelling the deal is withdrawal of security clearance to the firm.

"The letter of intent... has since been cancelled by MHA on October 9, 2012 due to denial of security clearance to the firm," Shantanu, director at the ministry said in response to an RTI query.

But sources said there were suspicions that the deal was not above board.

Singh told a high-level panel headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth on February 10 last year that only one bidder was found to be technically qualified.

"However, the tender was halted since inputs of collusive bidding and involvement of an undesirable contact person in the company... were received," Singh told the committee of secretaries.

The decision to take choppers on wet lease was taken in 2010 after the Indian Air Force made clear its inability to augment the fleet of choppers to aid security forces fighting the Maoists.

Under wet lease, the operator provides a chopper, crew, its maintenance and insurance.


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