Chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Monday sought the personal intervention of President Pranab Mukherjee to permit the Himachal government to use the Kalyani helipad at Chrabbra, which is located 10 km from here and is currently used only for landing of presidential choppers, as a helipad for tourists. He called on Mukherjee just before he left for Delhi this morning after his four-day visit to the city.
The helipad, which provides a picturesque view of the surrounding hills and valleys, is a cherished destination for locals as well as tourists.
The state government wants the President to open Kalyani helipad for private choppers. Flights to Shimla airport have remained suspended for the past two years and the state government has been repeatedly urging the civil aviation ministry to resume air services.
The government is now considering a move to engage private helicopter companies to operate services between Chandigarh and Shimla.
The “VVIP” helipad once belonged to the Himalayan International School but was later taken over by the government. It was recently declared off-limits for visitors on orders from the President’s office, much to the annoyance of tourists.
The Oberoi group which has an upscale hotel close to the helipad, had been requesting the government to allow use of the helipad for private copters. Just below the helipad is the upcoming “dream” house of congress party chief Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Vadra.
So far the government has remained reluctant to allow the use of the helipad for private copters. Another helipad that is located close to Shimla is at Annandale and is currently owned by the 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.
The army’s objections had also prevented introduction of heli taxi services during the previous BJP 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.
President given warm send-off
President Pranab Mukherjee was given a warm send-off at the Kalyani helipad on Monday after his five-day visit to the city.
Among those present were chief minister Virbhadra Singh, state assembly speaker B L Butail, irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes, power minister Sujan Singh Pathania, forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri, industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri, urban development minister Sudhir Sharma, social justice & empowerment minister Dhani Ram Shandil, rural development and ‘panchayati raj’ minister Anil Sharma, Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan and deputy mayor Tikender Panwar, chief secretary P Mitra and director general of police Sanjay Kumar.