One month on, mystery of missing chopper unsolvedSeptember 3rd, 2008 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS
Raipur, Sep 3 (IANS) It is exactly a month since a Raipur-bound private chopper with four persons on board went missing after it took off from Hyderabad and authorities in Chhattisgarh are still clueless about the mysterious disappearance. About 12,000 policemen and rescue teams of Indian Air Force and Ran Air company did their best to locate the chopper since Aug 3, when it disappeared in Maoist stronghold of Chhattisgarh’s southern Bastar region bordering Andhra Pradesh. But no clue has been found so far.
The authorities and relatives of the crew members - pilot V.P. Singh, co-pilot R.S. Gaur, engineer Santosh and technician Ashwani - have now given up.
The Bell-430 Ran Air chopper hired by the Chhattisgarh government was scheduled to land at Jagdalpur in Bastar district for refuelling en route to Raipur but it never landed.
The Chhattisgarh police, which initially announced a cash reward of Rs.100,000 for providing information about the chopper, doubled the reward amount to Rs.200,000. But the information police got from Dantewada and Bijapur districts’ forested caps inhabitants turned out to be false.
“We did the best. Nearly 12,000 policemen scanned thick forested regions and worked on each and every clue (that) came in our way either through public or the sites suggested by the National Remote Sensing Agency. But fact is that missing chopper is still a mystery,” Rahul Sharma, district police chief, Dantewada, who headed the entire rescue operation, told IANS.
The relatives of the crew members who had been shuttling between Raipur and Dantewada left Chhattisgarh with an emotional appeal to Maoists urging the insurgents to “show humanity and search for our family members”.
But their glimmer of hope of survival of crew members in case of rebels had hijacked the chopper was dashed when the insurgents issued a press statement in Bastar rejecting the hijacking rumour theory.
The banned ultra outfit, CPI-Maoist, said in a six-page statement Monday that neither have they hijacked the chopper nor has it fallen down in forested territory commanded by them.