Chandigarh, March 17
In the backdrop of a controversy being kicked up over the move to introduce ballistic helmets for Sikh troops, the Central Government on Friday stated that all pilots of fighter aircraft /combat helicopters and soldiers deployed in the areas where enemy attacks are anticipated or defending important installations are to wear the full protective gear for personal safety.
“Sikh troops battling terrorism have been wearing bullet proof patka over cloth patka while maintaining their religious identity. Tank crew of armoured regiments also wear padded communication head gear,” the Minister of State for Defence, Ajay Bhatt said in the Lok Sabha today.
He was responding to a question by Preneet Kaur, Member of Parliament from Patiala, on whether the government proposes to make wearing of tactical helmets by Sikh soldiers compulsory.
A modern-day soldier needs to have all-round protection from the newer and emerging threat of warfare. Indian soldiers are provided the requisite protection to include bullet proof jackets and bullet proof helmets to operate in challenging environments. Safety of soldiers who are deployed on security duties is considered paramount, Bhatt said.
Tactical helmets are an integral part of flying gear for combat aircraft operations and protective gear of soldiers against enemy gunfire. Fighter pilots and helicopter pilots of the Indian defence forces have always been wearing helmets over their religious headgear for heads up display and communication, he further added.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence had issued a request for proposal to procure ballistic helmets specially designed for Sikh troops. This had generated a debate amongst in religious as well as defence circles
A section of the Sikh religious and political leaders had opposed the move, contending that wearing a helmet instead of the traditional turban was against the tenets of Sikhism and would affect the identity of Sikhs. That had also appealed to the Prime Minister not to introduce such helmets.
Several defence and historical experts, on the other hand, had pointed out that Sikh soldiers had been wearing helmets in the bygone era. They had also cited the example of personal equipment used by Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army.
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