Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rift grounds anti-Naxal UAVs in Chhattisgarh

Rift grounds anti-Naxal UAVs in ChhattisgarhBy Indian Express Saturday July 21,A Pilot project to use aerial surveillance in anti-Naxal operations seems tohave ended in failure with both the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) deployedin Chhattisgarh recalled to their bases by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Themachines, deployed in August 2006 at the Raipur airfield, had been"forcefully grounded" after failing to collect adequate information aboutNaxal movements in the state.While the official explanation for the withdrawal is bad weather conditionsthat made the machines ineffective, sources said the IAF decided to rollback the UAVs following a rift with state authorities.The IAF is livid that after initial success in detecting Naxal movements andpositions, aerial evidence dried out suddenly indicating an intelligenceleak on flight details of the spy drones.

The inability of state authoritiesto follow up on evidence gathered by UAVs has also caused some frustration."We were detecting Naxal training camps, meeting places and movements in theinitial period. Later the UAVs became ineffective as the Naxalites seemed toknow the areas being kept under surveillance, " a senior official said.

However, the official position remains that the machines have been calledback for maintenance work."There is no rift between the IAF and the police as we both are part of theGovernment. Chhattisgarh is seeing overcast conditions these days, whichmake aerial surveillance difficult. Thus we have shifted the UAVs to utilisethis break for maintenance of those machines, which is quite normal," saidMahesh Upasani, Air Force spokesperson, Wing Commander.

Sources said the machines are unlikely to be re-deployed to Raipur evenafter the weather improves in September. They, however, add that the sameUAVs have been carrying out surveillance work along the western border underall weather conditions throughout the year.


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