Saturday, May 23, 2009

In midst of polls, Air Force airlifted a village under Naxal fire

Manu Pubby
Posted: Sunday , May 24, 2009 at 0146 hrs IST

New Delhi:

This is a rescue story that went unnoticed in the deluge of election talk. Last month, an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter crew braved bullets and bad light to airlift a village in Orissa to safety after it came under Naxal attack.

The rescue mission, set to get into IAF’s record books, was carried out on April 17 by a single Mi-17 helicopter that was slotted for election duty. The routine task of ferrying election officers and ballot boxes to remote areas turned into a rescue mission after the crew was requested to evacuate people from a besieged village where a small group of CRPF jawans was holding up against a Naxal attack.

In a number of sorties where the helicopter made several landings, more than 240 villagers and an Election Commission observer were airlifted to safety while the encounter on the ground raged on. The mission was undertaken by an IAF helicopter piloted by Wing Commander Amit Vyas and Flight Lieutenant Nikhil Mehrotra. “From whatever time that was available to us till last light that day, we managed to evacuate 120 villagers in some quick shuttles. And from the very first light next day, we evacuated the remaining 120 civilians to safety, including the Election Commission observer,” recalls Wing Commander Vyas, an experienced helicopter pilot who has served on UN missions.

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