Air India flies 5,000 force personnel to J&K

Air India has ferried around 5,000 army and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) personnel to Srinagar in special night flights in recent weeks as boots on the ground are being strengthened in Jammu and Kashmir after the Pulwama attack.

There are at least three flights every night full of security personnel leaving for Srinagar from New Delhi. Air India is also operating the wide-body 787 Dreamliner from Kolkata to fly soldiers in. 

There are now Delhi-Leh-Delhi flights twice a week chartered for Border Security Force (BSF) men apart from a separate flight for the army on the same route. Another regular Air India chartered service is going to be added for the army on the Delhi-Leh-Chandigarh route. 

Sources said that the Union Home Ministry had requisitioned the aircraft which were pulled out of the normal schedule to operate special night flights to Srinagar. 

After the February 14 Pulwama attack, the Centre had come under criticism for not flying the soldiers as road transport made them vulnerable to attacks. 

As the situation remain tense in Jammu and Kashmir after crackdown on militants by security forces post-Pulwama and the prevailing political situation against the backdrop of Supreme Court taking up challenges to the Constitution’s Section 35A, the Centre had decided to dispatch 45 additional companies (around 135 personnel) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 35 companies of the Border Security Force (BSF) and 10 companies each of the Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Indo-Tibetan Police Force (ITBP).

The diversion of the fleet has forced Air India to stretch its resources as 17 of its aircraft are already grounded because of technical issues. The domestic aviation circuit is already reeling under the impact of shortage of aircraft. 

Even private carriers are running low. Jet Airways has 53 of its aircraft grounded because of various reasons including the ban on operating the Boeing 737-8 Max after the crash in Ethiopia.

Twelve aircraft of Spicejet are grounded and 30 flights of Indigo are impacted because of shortage of pilots.

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