Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri demands MOU with company be made public

Shimla: After much criticism from the opposition party and public for the hiring chopper services on lease at a time when the state was under financial duress and Covid crisis, cabinet Minister Suresh Bhardwaj has defended his government’s move.

While interacting with media on Thursday, stated, “The hiring of the helicopter services has been done in a transparent manner and keeping in view of the interest of the state and especially the tribal natives who require it most during inclement weather conditions and natural calamities.”

The services of Mi 172 helicopter is being taken, through tender and MOU with MS sky one airways limited was signed on 17 September, 2019.

In the last many years in Himachal, be it any Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh or Prem Kumar Dhumal have always took helicopter services on lease from various helicopter companies.

There is always need for a big chopper for tribal areas when vehicular traffic is disrupted owing to heavy snowfall or any natural calamity to ferry patients and facilitate travel of inhabitants, said Bhardwaj.

“The Pawan Hans company providing services of helicopter 2013 model, had become old and after every single day service used to be grounded for one and a half month in need of repair and servicing. A need was felt for a new chopper; hence tender had been floated two years ago,” he justified.

The charges of the old chopper too was Rs 5.10 Lakhs per hour and the same charges has been fixed for the new chopper, he claimed, adding that penalty of Rs 8 crore has been levied on the company for delay.

“It is nothing new opposition and some people making unnecessary comments on social media,” minister added.

Soon trials will be conducted from 24 May and the chopper had landed in Delhi from Russia on 13 April the company has informed, said Bhardwaj.

Reacting to the justifications of the cabinet minister and raising serious doubts on the process of the pact signed with the company, leader Mukesh Agnihotri charged that the company did not even own a helicopter when the deal was executed in 2019 and now the chopper will be delivered after one and half year.

Questioning the execution of the deal with the company that did not own a helicopter and raising apprehensions, he slapped charges corruption.

The state government should make public the new MOU executed with the company and also previous MOUs with other companies that had been hired to provide chopper services so that facts are brought to the fore, he demanded.

“At a time, the country and the state are grappling with Covid-19 and requires medicines and oxygen crisis the state government is busy with the helicopter deal,” he lambasted, claiming that the state exchequer will be overburdened with an annual expenditure of Rs 35 crore.

On the other hand, the state government was deducting salaries of government employees and asking public to donate towards Covid fund created by the state government.