The government of India Thursday approved air travel for low-ranking officials of the central reserve police force, national security guards and other forces from Delhi to Srinagar, Srinagar to Jammu and vice-versa "to lessen the threat of attacks on the forces' convoys and reduce vehicular pressure on highway".
The new travel scheme has been formulated in the wake of a suicide bomb attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir's Pulwama district that left more than 40 personnel of the force dead on February 14.
According to a source, only high-ranking and middle-rung officers of the CRPF and other forces were entitled to travel by air. But, the source said, even a constable can travel by air from Jammu and Srinagar now while going on leave or returning from his home to join duties.
"The new travel plan will help at least eight lakh forces personnel, especially those from the CRPF, central industrial security force (CISF), ITBP and Sahastra Seema Bal, apart from the NSG and other forces," the source said.
The union ministry for home affairs (MHA) Thursday conveyed approval of the "competent authority" to allow non-entitled personnel of the central armed police forces (CAPFs) and NSG to travel by air from Jammu to Srinagar and back on official duty/transfer/tour and leave.
"The approval of competent authority is also conveyed to allow non-entitled personnel of CAPFs and NSG to travel by air from Delhi to Srinagar and back on official duty/transfer/tour as per the provisions contained in SR 48 B4 (a) subject to review after one year. This will be effective from the date of issue of this order," the MHA's order read.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, inspector general of CRPF (Srinagar sector) Ravideep Singh Sahi said under the new plan, constables and havaldars will be entitled to travel by air from Delhi to Srinagar and back.
"Earlier, they were not entitled to travel by air," he said.
The step will help do away with long stays of CRPF men in Jammu as they would otherwise have to wait for buses to board for Srinagar.
"The air travel of our men will also reduce load of convoys on roads. It (air travel) obviously involves fewer security risks and threat of attacks will naturally decrease when there would be less convoy movement," Sahi said.
He, however, said that convoy movement on roads in Kashmir would continue "but only the frequency will go down".