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(The article was published before the MHA notified air travel for Central Armed Forces, including CRPF, between Delhi-Srinagar, Srinagar-Delhi, Jammu-Srinagar and Srinagar-Jammu.)
“Why can’t the government provide bullet-proof vehicles or transport CRPF jawans by air? Ministry of Home Affairs is making incorrect claims that they provide air transit facility. Tell MHA to provide data on how many times have they airlifted jawans in IAF aircraft.”
In an exclusive interview to The Quint, VPS Panwar, the former Inspector General of CRPF debunks MHA’s claim of air transit facility being provided to the CRPF jawans.
After the Pulwama terror attack, on 17 February, the MHA had claimed that “air courier service for the transportation of CRPF jawans is operation for quite some time” between Jammu and Srinagar. However, Panwar said the MHA’s claim is misleading, as a very small number of jawans are transported between Jammu and Srinagar by air. He said,
“MHA is misleading, they have nothing to enhance, this is not good. MHA has an aircraft under BSF, which is small and has very less capacity of around six to seven people. These are small aircraft in which senior officers travel, (and) with them two to four jawans, who are going on a holiday too, join them.”VPS Panwar, former IG, CRPF
Panwar was a convoy commander in the Valley for three years between 1997 and 2000. He says it’s high time that the government provides bullet-proof vehicles and air transit facility to the CRPF jawans between Jammu and Srinagar to ensure their safety.
There Was No Need to Move So Many Jawans in One Convoy: Panwar
Panwar said it was tactically incorrect to move over 2,500 jawans in one convoy, adding that the senior officials could have split the number of jawans in multiple convoys over a period of two to three days. He said,
“It is not a question of intelligence failure. The question is, what was the need to send 2,547 jawans in one convoy with 78 vehicles? I feel it was tactically incorrect. The jawans could’ve been transported in three days. What was the need to send them in one convoy? When they waited for 10 days, then they could’ve waited for more days.”VPS Panwar, former IG, CRPF
Not Allowing Civil Cars Will Not Necessarily Ensure Safety: Panwar
A day after the Pulwama attack, Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced that no civil cars will be allowed with convoys now. In the attack, a SUV car laden with around 200 kg of RDX hit the CRPF convoy killing 40 jawans.
Not allowing civil cars has its drawbacks too, said Panwar, adding,
“During my time, private cars where not allowed (with the convoy). But later it was allowed by the government. I feel (allowing civil cars) with the convoy has both benefits and drawbacks. I feel civil cars should be allowed with the convoy. Check the cars properly and then allow them in. I feel if the private cars are moving with the convoy then terror attacks won’t happen. Because in this scenario Kashmiris will also get killed and they (terrorists) will not do so. The government should take a decision what they feel is best.”VPS Panwar, former IG, CRPF
Bullet-Proof Vehicles and Air Transit Will Minimise Risk: Panwar
Panwar points out that the buses in which jawans are transported are unsafe. Hence, a bullet-proof vehicle should be provided to the jawans to ensure their safety. He also said the air transit of jawans will not only minimise the risk but it is also cheaper.
“Why can’t Air Force transport our convoy (by air)? Why should we send the convoy by road? We should reduce the risk. Why can’t they move the convoy by air? It would be cheaper. I feel, when it is a question of life, money shouldn’t matter. Ration should be transported by road. I am talking about only the transportation of men. Apart from this, CRPF should be provided with armoured (bullet-proof) vehicles. The Army’s convoy moves in armoured vehicle. The private buses which are given to the CRPF jawans are not safe. If bullets are fired on these buses, jawans will definitely get hit. And it has happened in the past.”VPS Panwar, former IG, CRPF
‘BSF Jawans Got Air Transit Facility Days Before Pulwama Attack’
Panwar said the MHA had not provided permanent air transit facilities to the CRPF and if they are saying so then they are misleading. He also pointed out that just a couple of days before the Pulwama terror attack, the BSF requested for air transportation and they got it.
On being asked about the MHA’s claim, Panwar said,
“No, no, it is incorrect. Tell MHA to provide data on how many times have they airlifted jawans in IAF aircraft. The BSF made requisition for air transit just two to three days before the terror attack, and they got the aircraft. The BSF convoy got transported by air. I don’t know the exact number but a few hundreds were sent by air, just a couple of days before the Pulwama attack. The CRPF also made requisition for air transit, then why didn’t they get it?”VPS Panwar, former IG, CRPF
He said the number of jawans shouldn’t be a concern, adding that even if there are thousands of jawans, they can be transported by multiple flights.
“Why can’t they airlift 2,500 jawans? There are aircraft like AN 12, C 70, and they have airlifted jawans. If jawans are not transported in one sortie (flight), it can move in two, three or four sorties. During my tenure, once the strength of the jawans to be transported went up to 1,500, I made an air transit requisition which was approved.”VPS Panwar, former IG, CRPF