The Congress on Wednesday expressed concern over the safety and well-being of the IAF personnel on board an AN-32 aircraft that went missing in Arunachal Pradesh after taking off from Assam's Jorhat, and questioned the government on why it had not allocated resources to replace the obsolete AN-32 fleet.
Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the defence minister must answer why measures were not taken after the Indian Air Force (IAF) lost an AN-32 aircraft en route to the Andaman and Nicobar islands, which was not tracked.
"Pray for safety and well-being of IAF personnel and crew of missing Aircraft AN-32. Sad to know that missing AN-32 had SOS Signal Unit that's OBSOLETE. Government must tell - Why was upgradation of AN-32 not completed despite India and Ukraine agreement of 2009?," Mr Surjewala posted on Twitter.
He said the government and the defence ministry must also answer, "Why was the AN-32 flying on that treacherous terrain when we have a better aircraft to fly on that route. Why has the government not allocated sufficient defence budget to replace the AN-32 fleet."
"The Government and Defence Minister must also answer that despite a similar accident earlier of losing an AN-32 aircraft en route to Andaman and Nicobar islands and which was not tracked, why have mitigating measures not been taken by Defence Ministry," the Congress leader asked.
A massive search operation involving a large fleet of planes, choppers and ground forces was underway and satellite imagery being used to trace the AN-32 transport plane of the IAF, two days after it went missing near the thickly-forested Menchuka in Arunachal Pradesh.
Aircraft equipped with advanced sensors including C-130J, AN-32 and the Indian Navy's long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, P8I, were deployed, besides Mi-17 and ALH helicopters of the Army, to locate the missing plane, officials said.
The Russian-origin transport aircraft, with 13 people on board, went missing on Monday afternoon, around 33 minutes after taking off from Jorhat in Assam for Menchuka, near the border with China.