Srinath Vudali, TNN
HYDERABAD: The much-hyped unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are proving ineffective in tracking the Maoists in the Andhra-Odisha andAndhra-Chhattisgarh borders. Intelligence officials claim that the drones have become a white elephant as the UAVs stationed miles away in Hyderabad hardly come handy in locating the movement of the Maoists after attacks in the thick forests on the border areas.
The UAV, operated by the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) from the Begumpet airport, is meant to be used for anti-Maoist intelligence gathering in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The information gathered by the drone is meant to be shared with various security agencies.
However, it is learnt that after the recent ambush on Congress leaders in Sukma district in Chhattisgarh, in which the Maoists killed 28 people, the UAV was of little use in locating the retreating Maoists. A decision has been taken now to relocate the UAV from Hyderabad to Bhilai in Chhattisgarh. State police officials said Andhra Pradesh would get another drone at a later stage as a replacement.
When the proposal of deploying the Israeli-made UAVs for anti-Maoist operations was first mooted, officials of various agencies felt it would be useful in tracking the extremists even during night time. “It is a fact that the UAV can be deployed to gather intelligence after an attack to quickly locate the retreating naxalites. Besides capturing images, it is also capable of picking up voices. It is also a fact that the available UAV has become a white elephant,” credible sources in the state police told TOI.
Though it has been over a year since the drone was stationed in the city, it was hardly used due to various reasons like its inability to distinguish between civilian and Maoist camps, fuel efficiency etc. A few months ago, based on a proposal by additional director-general (Intelligence) M Mahendar Reddy, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) permitted the state police to hire an MI-172 helicopter for anti-Maoist operations. The state has been using a BSF helicopter located in Chhattisgarh for any emergency in the Maoist-affected Visakha Agency areas.