THE STATE WANTS SEVEN AIR AMBULANCES & ARE AWAITING A RESPONSE FROM THE ELECTION COMMISSION
By bappaditya paul
Apprehensive of Maoist-induced violence during the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls in the state, West Bengal has sought from the Election Commission seven air ambulances to facilitate emergency evacuation of polling personnel.Of the seven air ambulances sought, the Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-hit districts alone have placed requisition for six; South 24-Parganas district has requisitioned one.
According to sources in the office of West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), the poll panel had early this month asked them if the state would require any air ambulance during the polls. The CEO’s office in turn asked the districts to place their requirements.
Consequently, the three LWE-hit districts of Purulia and Bankura sought one air ambulance each and West Midnapore asked for four. South 24-Parganas also sought one air ambulance.
West Midnapore has sought the four air ambulances in batches of two in two phases when voting in the district is scheduled to take place. South 24-Parganas has sought the one air ambulance to be put in use for the remote polling stations located in the Sundarbans. While Purulia and Bankura are scheduled to go to the polls on 7 May and South 24-Parganas on 12 May; voting in the three Lok Sabha constituencies in West Midnapore will take place in two phases on 7 May and 12 May.
The state CEO, Mr Sunil Kumar Gupta, said that his office has already forwarded the requisition to the Election Commission and was now awaiting a response. “We have placed the requisition but lets see how many we finally get. During the 2011 Assembly election in the state we had got two air ambulances,” he said.
The state officials are doubtful if they will get all the seven air ambulances as have been sought for. “No private or public medical facilities in West Bengal have air ambulances of their own. The Fortis and Apollo Hospital groups, which have branch hospitals in Kolkata, have air ambulances but those are based at their headquarters at Gurgaon and Chennai, respectively,” said an official.“Given this, it will not be easy to manage seven air ambulances, more so because other states have also placed their requirements to the Commission.”
Air ambulances are built on small aircraft or helicopters by equipping them with life-support medical equipments similar to the ones used in a road ambulance such as stretcher, oxygen cylinder, a two-way radio communication facility etc.
They can prove very crucial in saving the life of an injured poll personal through early evacuation to advanced healthcare facilities located in major cities.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 11 April 2014.)