Frequent air travel by Maharashtra’s VIPs is going to cost the state exchequer Rs 30 lakh more. The state government has run out of money to fuel the two planes and one helicopter that it owns and maintains.
The governor, chief minister and deputy chief minister largely use the state-owned aircraft — an eight-seater Cessna, a King Air 350 and a Dauphin helicopter. However, other ministers can also use them.
In the last six months, VIP trips have consumed aviation fuel worth Rs 58 lakh, the estimated fuel budget for an entire year. The government has now sought supplementary funds of another Rs 30 lakh to cover additional fuel cost.
The general administration department cleared this extra amount — it is expected to last till March — through a resolution on January 3.
In the last six months, former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s many trips to his hometown in Latur, besides trips to Delhi for political lobbying, have been in the state aircraft. However, Secretary of Civil Aviation Sudhir Thakray insisted that the frequent trips were not the only reason for exceeding the fuel budget.
“We bought an additional aircraft this year. So, obviously aviation fuel cost will increase. Further, security protocol demands that the pilot who flies VIPs has to do 100 hours on that specific aircraft. We had to spend on fuel for this as well,” he said.
Deshmukh had bought the Cessna for Rs 52 crore last May.
The state had to buy another aircraft because of the squabbles between Deshmukh and former deputy chief minister R.R. Patil over its use. With elections round the corner, VIP air travel is likely to increase further in the next three months.