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Vehicles struggle to reach Shyamjuli, a village 450km northeast of Assam’s principal city, Guwahati. This was the reason why Chandra Siwakoti Sharma, a school dropout, built a helicopter that he says can carry two people 30-50ft above the ground.
An automobile mechanic, Sharma spent more than Rs15 lakh to design the helicopter with metal sheets, car seats and two SUV engines. He has named it Pawan Putra, a sort of a “jugaad”, or innovative fix, he worked on primarily to give his backward area a faster mode of communication.
Shyamjuli is in Dhemaji district, Assam’s remotest and almost always flood-affected.
“My helicopter can fly, though not as fast as the ones in operation for civil or military duty. It can easily move at 50kmph,” Sharma says.
He is awaiting clearance from authorities concerned to find out if his aircraft really works.
“We want to encourage a person who has conquered adversities to make a helicopter without any degree in aviation. But we want to go by the rules first,” said Victor Carpenter, the district’s deputy commissioner.
Carpenter said the district administration would write to the chief of civil aviation regulator DGCA and others who deal with such cases. “We are exploring the possibility of at least facilitating a trial for the chopper that Sharma has built.”
Locals, enthused by Sharma’s innovation, have already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One of them, Ganesh Karki, pointed out that the helicopter was one of the best examples of Modi’s ambitious “Make in India” project.
“Sharma could not study beyond class 3 because of poverty, but invested all his savings and even sold his land to follow his dream. He needs to be encouraged,” Karki wrote.
Sharma said local officials and officers from an army camp nearby have promised to witness the trial of his helicopter once he gets permission.
“I did run the engines once. The rotor was forcing the helicopter up, but I stopped the engines in order to not violate any rules,” he said.