Copter service to Kedarnath: Govt floats fresh tender, 12 days before portals open | dehradun | Hindustan Times
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Copter service to Kedarnath: Govt floats fresh tender, 12 days before portals open

The Uttarakhand has once again floated tenders inviting bids from aviation firms for helicopter services to Kedarnath shrine

dehradun Updated: Apr 18, 2018 22:40 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Yimes, Dehradun
Pilgrims at the Gangotri shrine on Wednesday.
Pilgrims at the Gangotri shrine on Wednesday.(HT Photo)

The Uttarakhand has once again floated tenders inviting bids from aviation firms for helicopter services to Kedarnath shrine. The tender, issued on April 17, comes 12 days before the portals to Kedarnath shrine — one of the fabled four Char Dhams in mountain state — are thrown open for public on April 29.

The annual Chardham Yatra began Wednesday with the opening of portals to Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines.

The new tender has retained at least two clauses that were existing in the one issued by the Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA) on April 7. It again limits the bidding to only operators with three copters — two owned and one on the lease. It has also restricted the biding to those who have and experience of at least three years of flying in the valley.

The chopper services are meant for on four routes Guptkashi-Kedarnath, Phata-Kedarnath, Sirsi-Kedarnath and Govindghat-Ghangria.

The operators had raised their voice against the two clauses in the earlier tender. The tender was later withdrawn and it was said that at least six amendments were carried out before the new tender was floated.

“The new tender is a photocopy of the initial tender. We had protested against the norm mandating the minimum number of choppers and it was removed from the second tender. But, this third tender has again retained the clause and it is evident that government is trying to benefit only a few operators,” said Rajeev Dhar, who runs helipad in Tirjuginarayan.

Dhar has filed a writ petition in Uttarakhand High Court on April 16 demanding that the earlier tender be scrapped. In his plea, he said that the tender clauses would restrict utilization to only a few select helipads. This would affect the villagers whose livelihood is connected with tourism.

There are 14 helipads in the Kedarnath valley.

On Wednesday, he withdrew the writ saying that he will file it again after making amendments. “I will re-submit my writ. If the government limits operators with stringent clauses, then how will it support locals? They first ask people to invest here and then do not provide the opportunities,” he added.

People close to the matter informed that the UCADA had received one bid each from a consortium, or a group of operators, for each route last week after the second tender was released on April 14. Under such circumstances, the procurement policy of the government directs for issuing a fresh tender, which ahs been done.

“If operators wanted to participate, then they wouldn’t have gone for single bids. We want the system to be transparent and need only experienced operators and those who comply with national green tribunal (NGT) protocol,” Om Prakash, additional chief secretary and chief executive officer of UCADA, said.

The NGT has mandated choppers to fly above 600 mt in the eco-sensitive Kedarnath valley.

Helicopters are also a preferred mode of travel for many pilgrims who do not want to trek through a treacherous 16-km route between Guptkashi and Kedarnath. Post June 2013 Kedarnath tragedy during which the treks were washed away, chopper services emerged as a saviour reviving the pilgrimage. The government had then invited companies to come forward and venture into this business. Over 4 lakh passengers took the air route to visit the shrine last year. The helicopter service cost is ₹3000-7000 per person depending on the distance of helipad.

Last year, due to non-compliance of National Green Tribunal (NGT) directions, the services were suspended due to which pilgrims faced great difficulties.