State-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd, which suspended services in six northeastern states after Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu and four others were killed in a crash, has resumed operations in the region.
"We have asked all our bases in the northeastern region to resume helicopter services in the six states," a senior Pawan Hans official told IANS by phone from the firm's corporate office in Noida.
"On Tuesday, services with double-engine choppers instead of previous single-engine aircraft have resumed in Tripura and Sikkim. Gradually, this would start in other states," the official said.
According to the official, services were resumed after a thorough check of all aircraft.
The decision to suspend operations in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland and Manipur came after the April 30 crash that killed Khandu and two pilots, a personal security officer and the sister of the Tawang legislator.
A few days earlier, on April 19, 17 people were killed when a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed at the Tawang helipad, located at an altitude of 11,000 feet, in Arunachal Pradesh just as it was about to land.
Tripura Transport Secretary Kishore Ambuly told IANS: "Following the directive of the union home ministry, the Tripura government had earlier floated a tender to operate chopper services.
"Pawan Hans and a few other private companies had also participated in the offer and the state run company won the tender.
"Earlier the copter services were operated like other states of northeast India following an agreement between Pawan Hans and the Tripura government," Ambuly said.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma had taken up the issue with his counterparts in northeastern states to pressurise Pawan Hans and the central government to replace the age-old choppers in the region, another Tripura official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
He said Sangma had suggested operating double-engine choppers instead of single-engine aircraft in the northeast. However, a Pawan Hans official here said that was not an issue.
"Many helicopters with double-engines, including that of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and former Lok Sabha speaker G.M.C. Balayogi, have crashed in different parts of India," he said.
India's lone national helicopter company, Pawan Hans has been operating services for nine years in the northeast, the union home ministry subsidising fares by up to 75%.
"Pawan Hans was established with the primary objective of providing helicopter support services to the oil sector for offshore exploration operations, services in remote and hilly areas and charter services for promotion of tourism," the company's official document said.