Barely A year after it decided it did not need an aircraft to ferry VVIPs, the Haryana government is now gearing up to buy one.
State Civil Aviation Minister Ram Bilas Sharma has given the plan his approval. The proposal will be sent to the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s office for final clearance following which the process for purchase will be initiated.
An eight-seater aircraft used by the Haryana government for VVIP movement had crashed in March last year during take-off at Chandigarh Airport with the former Haryana governor Jagannath Pahadia on board. The aircraft, purchased in 2006 by the government, was declared unfit for repair. Citing austerity measures, the Haryana government had decided not to buy a new aircraft and terminated the services of the pilots.
A senior official at the Haryana Civil Aviation Department said Sharma approved the proposal recently. “Approval will be required from the chief minister’s office. For this, a proposal will be sent soon. Once that is received, a proposal will be prepared for the purchase of the aircraft. A decision will be taken on the kind of aircraft that is to be purchased,” said the official.
One of the reasons behind the decision appears to be the huge cost incurred by the government in the past few months on hiring aircraft and helicopter for VVIP movement. An amount of Rs 2.70 crore has been spent on hiring aircraft 57 times between October 2014 and July 2015. According to sources, the Chief Minister was the most frequent flier followed by the Haryana Governor. The BJP, after coming to power in Haryana in October last year, had announced that austerity measures would be adopted and travel by Shatabdi and Volvo buses would be encouraged. The government owns a helicopter as well. It needs frequent repair, sources said.
The government recently received Rs 14 crore as insurance for the aircraft that was damaged. Earlier, the government was purchasing aircraft every 10-12 years depending on their condition. The last plane crashed before the end of this period. As per sources, the cost incurred by the government when it owned a plane was less than what is being paid now.
The Haryana government had earlier also mooted a proposal for hiring an aircraft from the Rajasthan government, which has two. It was proposed that one of the aircraft could be deployed in Chandigarh depending on the terms and conditions that were finalised. The proposal is in process of being discussed with the Rajasthan government. The aircraft being hired by the government at present are available in Delhi, adding to the costs. A final decision on the same is yet to be taken.