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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Work in group to run copter service at Kedarnath: Govt to aviation firms

Utarakhand government has asked aviation companies to give copter service collectively

dehradun Updated: Mar 28, 2018 22:06 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
The government officials suggested that the companies with less than three copters should work as a group.
The government officials suggested that the companies with less than three copters should work as a group.(HT)

Utarakhand government Wednesday asked aviation companies to work in consortium with three principle companies that fulfil the tender norms released earlier this month for flying copters to the Kedarnath shrine.

The tender floated by the Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA) stipulated that the bidding was open to companies, which own two helicopters and take one on lease.

This condition nullified the chances of 75% companies, operating in Uttarakhand. The operators alleged that only three companies fulfil the norms and hence the business of the remaining firms (six companies) will be shut down.

On Wednesday evening, additional chief secretary Om Prakash along with additional secretary, UCADA, R Rajesh Kumar met the operators at Civil Aviation Headquarters on Sahastradhara Road.

The officials suggested that the companies with less than three copters should work as a group. They, however, added that the tender will be allotted to the company that satisfies the norms. The operators said that this means that the tender would be given to the company having three copters, while other firms could work with this parent company.

“Government’s decision will discourage people from investing in Uttarakhand. The aviation sector prospered after repeated pleas of the government asking aviation firms to invest in state. Now that companies have established base, a decision is being taken to give advantage to select firms. This is unfair,” Rajeev Dhar, who runs a helipad at Tirjuginarayan near Kedarnath, said.

People close to the matter said that UT Air, Heritage, and Global Vectra fulfill the tender norms.

“If we work as a group with other company, it would mean a massive loss of revenue for us,” an operator said requesting anonymity.

People familiar with the matter claimed that the BJP government issued the tender to favour a particular company. “The tender only talks about the number of copters and age of the engine, but nowhere safety has been mentioned,” said another operator requesting anonymity.

The fare for a helicopter ride in Kedarnath is between Rs 3000-7000 per person depending on the distance from the helipad. There are 14 helipads around the shrine.

“There will be a separate meeting of tourism secretary with the operators. We will take the best decision in the interest of state as well as its people,” Kumar said.

The operators claimed that previous Congress government had come up with a similar tender in 2016. The BJP, particularly then leader of the opposition Ajay Bhatt, had accused the government of favouring India Fly Safe Aviation Ltd, linked to Congress leader Naveen Jindal, and demanded a probe.

The Congress government’s tender had sought proposals for scheduled services, but Jindal’s company was registered as a non-scheduled operator (NSOP), which prompted the BJP’s opposition. The remaining 14 companies were running scheduled services.

BJP when came to power last year cancelled the contract and issued a revised tender.

Former chief minister Harish Rawat has demanded that the BJP apologise for the allegations levelled against his government. “The BJP government should apologise to us for the accusations made when we wanted to do the same,” he said.

He added that there was a plan for an ‘umbrella heli company’, which would run all seasonal and internal air services and pay Rs 12 crore revenue annually to the government. “The decision could have facilitated internal air service to remote areas of Pithoragarh, Chinyalisaud, Gauchar and others. But the BJP could not follow it and people of the state are still suffering from poor air connectivity,” he said.

Om Prakash was in meeting until filing of the report and couldn’t be contacted for version.