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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

HP wants Prez office to allow use of helipad for pvt choppers

Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times  Shimla, June 30, 2014
First Published: 11:53 IST(30/6/2014) | Last Updated: 12:05 IST(30/6/2014)

The Himachal Pradesh government wants the President of India office to open Kalyani helipad for private choppers.

“It’s the state government property, why shouldn’t this helipad be allowed for landing of private choppers,” vicechairman tourism development board Vijay Singh Mankotia told Hindustan Times. In the absence of the flights at the Shimla airport, the number of high-end tourists have declined. The government is now mulling to engage private chopper companies to run the heli services between Chandigarh and Shimla.

The flights at the Shimla airport has been closed since last two years and the state government has been repeatedly urging the Centre to restart the flights.

Kalyani helipad is situated close to President’s retreat at Charabra.

The VVIP helipad once belonged to the Himalayan International School, but was later taken over by government to construct a helipad for the visits of President of India. The helipad which provides the picturesque view of lush green valleys is a hit with tourists and locals usually thronging the place for picnic.

But of late, on the orders of the President’s office, the entry gates at the helipad has been shut down for visitors, much to the annoyance of the tourists.

“We will write to the home department to allow the use of the helipad for private choppers. It should be opened to general public as it’s used only twice or thrice in a year, that too, for the VVIP visits,” says Mankotia.

The Oberoi group which has the high-end hotel close to the helipad had been requesting the government to allow the use of the helipad for private choppers.

So far the government has remained reluctant to allow the use of the VVIP helipad. The another helipad close to Shimla is at Annadale and is currently in possession of the Indian army.

The Annandale ground is used by army to conduct routine mock drills. Portion of the ground is also used as golf course. The army had been objecting to allow the helipad for private choppers.

Strong opposition from the army had also put a spanner on the heli-taxi services introduced during the Bharatiya Janata Party regime. The government had also constituted a committee to look for space to construct a helipad surrounding the state capital. The committee had shortlisted three sites, including Bharari and Bhatkufar.

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