With no airplane of its own since the past about a year, the Haryana government has sent three pilots and an aeronautical engineer, deployed in its civil aviation department, home.
Its only 10-seater airplane — Super King Air B 200 — which the state government had bought in 2006 (insured for about `14 crore) was irreparably damaged after it caught fire while taking off from Chandigarh for New Delhi with the then governor Jagannath Pahadia on board on March 27, 2014.
The recent official order relieving the pilots said that the state government was not inclined to purchase a new aircraft and that the state government was “making all out efforts towards financial prudence and there is a lot of emphasis on curbing non-plan expenditure.”
It further said the state government was of view that it would be a waste of public funds to keep the posts and that the government had therefore considered the matter carefully and decided to abolish the posts. Relieving the pilots and the engineer of their duties with immediate effect, the letter, however, said they would be entitled to all retrial benefits as per rules. Those relieved are senior executive pilot Wg Cdr B Nanda (retd) and pilots capt Kapil Khatana, capt Dinesh Bansal and aeronautical mechanical engineer Harpreet S Saini. While Wg Cdr Nanda got a salary plus allowances of about Rs 2 lakh a month, the pilots got about Rs 1 lakh a month and the engineer about Rs 50,000. Likewise, while the first named, who was in Indian Air Force then, had experience of flying the airplanes with prime ministers from 1986 to 1994 aboard and later all chief ministers and governors of Haryana since 1995, the pilots too had an experience of about two decades.
However, according the information culled from an right to information (RTI) query seeking details pertaining to chartered planes hired by state government from November 2014 to February 2015 by an activist revealed the chartered airplanes were hired by the state government seven times for chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and as many times for the governor during this period. Of the total 14 times, 12 times a chartered airplane was hired from outside agencies for which about Rs 31 lakh was paid. Also, a helicopter was hired once from outside agency for which about Rs 3 lakh was paid. However, in the past also, the previous governments had hired private aircraft on payments a numerous times.
The state government also has a twin engine passenger helicopter purchased by previous Congress government for the chief minister.