'200 IAF pilots desperate to quit'
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'200 IAF pilots desperate to quit'

Many are no more motivated to continue in service while being away from families, says a survey. Why?

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 23:45 IST

A BBC investigation has revealed that at least 200 Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots have indicated they want to leave the service, but they are not being allowed to quit. The IAF said in response that premature retirement cases were decided only after proper scrutiny.

A BBC statement based on the report quoted the unnamed pilots as saying that poor working and living conditions and the difficulty of living away from their families had prompted their decisions. But they say that the IAF was not allowing them to quit.

The statement said that many serving pilots, who spoke to the radio in different parts of India, said they were no longer motivated to carry on in service while being separated from their families.

They said deteriorating service conditions and a culture of "sycophancy being promoted by senior officers" was making it difficult for them to work. They added that the situation was aggravated by the authorities' refusal to allow them to quit.

Figures obtained by BBC show that between 2002 and 2004, 263 pilots were allowed by the IAF to seek premature retirement. However, in 2005, only eight pilots were allowed to leave.

BBC said it had seen classified documents which showed that one of those given premature retirement managed to do so only after he obtained a letter from a member of Parliament.

One of the pilots, with more than a decade of service with the IAF, said he was dismayed at not having been given permission to leave the force and felt victimised.

"Having given the prime years of my youth to the country, what have I asked for? Just to be allowed to live with my family. Even that is being denied," he was quoted as saying.

Another pilot who was denied permission to leave attempted to commit suicide. He is currently undergoing psychiatric help in an Army hospital.

In a written response to BBC, the IAF said: "When any officer of the IAF asks for premature retirement on compassionate grounds, these cases are investigated and, when found genuine, the officer is allowed to proceed on premature retirement."

The IAF also said that it was investigating the suicide attempt. It added that millions of rupees were spent on training them to become pilots.

"We have to ensure that cockpit vacancies are kept filled at all times, as failure to do so would jeopardise national security," it says.

An added complication has been the emergence of many new private airlines in India that has led to a massive demand for trained pilots. Many of them see the air force pilots as their best bet.

First Published: Apr 11, 2006 15:22 IST