Ministry to take action against errant IAF men

They abandoned an injured policeman in a helicopter

The Defence Ministry will decide the course of action against Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel who abandoned an injured Chhattisgarh policeman in a helicopter last month after the chopper was hit by Maoists.

“The Indian Air Force is inquiring into the incident. We will take action once the report comes out,” Antony said here on Wednesday.

The minister’s reaction comes in the wake of Union Home Secretary R K Singh writing to Defence Secretary Sashi Kant Sharma asking him to take action against the IAF personnel, including two commandos, who left the policeman and weapons inside the jungle and walked up to the nearest camp. The injured policeman, rescued by a CRPF team six hours later, is undergoing treatment in a hospital.

“Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. It’s our internal family matter. The IAF is helping paramilitary forces in logistic support for years. There were 172 IAF missions for casualty evacuation so far. Something went wrong in one mission which we are investigating,” Antony said.

The IAF MI-17 IV  helicopter was on a rescue mission to Timalwara helipad in South Chhattisgarh on January 18. While making an approach for landing, the helicopter was hit by ground fire from Maoists. Multiple bullet hits had extensively damaged the fuel tank, hydraulic system, rotor blades and AC generator resulting in hot oil and fuel gushing into the passenger compartment followed by failure of various system.

Subsequently, the helicopter crash-landed. Among the chopper crew were two Garuda commandos, besides the IAF pilots who ran to safety though they were armed and equipped with general orders to retaliate in case of coming under fire. 

The home secretary  wrote, “The act by the members of an armed force of the Union is extremely disturbing and reflects on their battle hardiness.” He also sought an inquiry into the irregularities and action against the IAF personnel for an act that “appeared to be in clear violation of the Standard Operating Procedure on the subject.”

The helicopter has been brought back to service after a thorough overhauling but the force’s reputation took a beating.

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