A helicopter flown by former Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda has been seized by police for its alleged attempt to land on Odisha’s Chilika lake. Panda, who quit the BJD in May after a long-drawn feud, called the seizure a “brazen attempt to handicap my movement”.
The helicopter was seized on Monday after an FIR was registered against the alleged attempted landing of an unauthorised aircraft on Saturday, when Panda was riding a chopper across a stretch of coastal Odisha up to Konark. The police also sealed the hangar where the R-44 helicopter, operated by Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys Ltd (IMFA) and frequently used by Panda, was stored.
The FIR, filed at Marine police station at Arakhakuda (Puri) by an official with the Chilika Development Authority, said the chopper attempted to land on Chilika, which is a “no-flying eco-sensitive zone”. In response, Panda tweeted, “lake not on the list of no fly zones. Also, boss (Naveen Patnaik) flew there (earlier)”.
Puri SP Dr Sarthak Sarangi told The Indian Express, “Only one (private) aircraft flew in that stretch on Saturday… clearly the same one visited Konark and Chilika.” The FIR was registered under sections of IPC, Aircraft Act and Wildlife Protection Act, he added. “Notices have been sent (to Panda and co-passengers) for not appearing before police today as instructed.”
The chopper piloted by Panda, and carrying two passengers, flew on the Bhubaneswar-Rajhans-Puri-Konark-Garadpur-Jagannathpur route, for which it had obtained clearances from authorities at the Bhubaneswar-based Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA), as per the body’s flight records.
Panda later tweeted that the seizure was a “brazen attempt to handicap my movement around Odisha, but they can’t stop me”. Pointing out inconsistencies in the allegations, Panda tweeted that while the FIR said the attempted landing was at 1.30 pm, flight records with BPIA show his chopper returned to Bhubaneswar at 1.26 pm. In his tweets, he said that “cops privately admit orders from 3rd floor”, suggesting the role of CM Naveen Patnaik’s private secretary V Karthikeyan Pandian in the matter.
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader K V Singh Deo said the BJD should first call for the CM’s arrest, alleging that Patnaik had previously flown over Chilika in a chopper.