The helicopters will be used for quick response to reinforcement and rescue needs. Central security forces and Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand governments are scouting for safe helipad locations close to the base stations of security forces. Some of the sites surveyed are at Narayanpur and Kanker in Chhattisgarh and at Gumla in Jharkhand.
BSF helicopters, in use for anti-Naxal attacks, are stationed at Ranchi and Raipur. Three to four Dhruv Advance Light Helicopters and two Mi-17 helicopters make up the fleet. According to sources, helicopter support in Naxal areas has helped save lives of many securitymen. An officer said two bleeding CRPF men among those ambushed in Dantewada were saved because of a timely airlift to a hospital by a BSF copter. “The helicopter is the best friend of troops in operation,” he said. While an Mi-17 can accommodate about 25-27 personnel, a ‘Dhruv’ can carry 10-12 men.
Also, use of IAF in the operations is being considered, and a Chief Ministers’ meet, to be convened on July 24, will decide on the matter. Reacting to this, Maoist spokesperson, Kishenji, said the IAF should not be used against poor people. “You are Indian citizens, you should not use your guns on the poor,” he said in an appeal to the IAF.
The add-on to Centre’s fight against Naxals come following fears of a Maoist backlash in the aftermath of the killing of Azad, who to the rebels were the “mind and soul of Indian revolution”. The outfit has vowed to avenge his death and has called for a two-day
‘Bharat bundh’ from July 7, prompting authorities to beef up security in the Naxal-hit areas of the country. The body of Azad, a senior member of the CPI (Maoist) Central Committee who was killed in an encounter in Adilabad on July 2, was cremated on Sunday at Punjagutta in Hyderabad. His family members and a large number of people including Maoist sympathisers and poets, Varavara Rao and Kalyan Rao, were present at the cremation.
Azad, killed along with another suspected Naxalite Sukdeb, carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head. He was allegedly involved in attempts on the lives of two former Andhra Pradesh chief ministers.