New Delhi: The home ministry may have announced a free air travel facility for Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel deployed in Jammu and Kashmir that can be availed both for going home and reporting back to duty, but the move seems to be more in the nature of optics than an initiative to strengthen the personnel’s security.
Launched Thursday in the wake of the Pulwama attack that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, the commercial flights facility isn’t a replacement for convoys because once the personnel reach either Jammu or Srinagar by air, they will still be transported to their respective posts by road.
“It is practically impossible to do away with the convoy as all personnel cannot be airlifted each time,” a home ministry official told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
“There will definitely be convoy movement on the road and we are working on strengthening security around that. This facility to CAPFs is not a replacement of convoys.”
The official added, “This facility, however, will definitely help cut short the travel time of the personnel and help them join faster. In addition to that we always have the support of the Indian Air Force as and when required.”
The facility, which is said to benefit approximately 7,80,000 personnel of the CAPFs, has been given to the ranks of constable, head constable and assistance sub-inspectors posted in Jammu and Kashmir, who were otherwise not eligible earlier.
The routes approved for entitlement of air travel are Delhi-Srinagar, Srinagar-Delhi, Jammu-Srinagar and Srinagar-Jammu.
The CAPFs include the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Assam Rifles (AR), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Security Guard (NSG), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
The home ministry official also explained how an “air courier” — either from the personnel’s home state or Jammu/Srinagar — is not practical for so many personnel due to the limited availability of resources like helicopters.
There has been speculation confusing the commercial air facility with an air courier service.
“The helicopters are used in case of an emergency like a rescue operation or in operations. To use them to transport personnel is not practical as we only have very limited helicopters,” said the official.
“But in case of a special request, they definitely are used. To say that we replace convoys on roads with air couriers, is completely impractical,” added the official.