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GROUNDED
- After Hyderabad academy licence trouble, wannabe SC/ST, OBC pilots driven out of Bilaspur cradle

How to crash-land before take-off — learn it from Jharkhand.

For the second time in a row, an imprudent state government has handpicked the wrong academy to train a bunch of aspiring underprivileged youths as commercial pilots.

Bilaspur-based Sai Flytech Aviation Academy, selected last year after Hyderabad’s Spica Airlines & Aviation Academy (wrongly reported as Spyka Aviation Institute) was found to be an unlicensed cradle, literally drove out 26 wannabe aviators — 25 boys and one girl from Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste and OBC — from campus earlier this month.

The aspirants were told by the academy that its deal with the Jharkhand government had been cancelled, a claim denied by the state. The boys and girl are currently lodged at Jharkhand State Tribal Research Institute and will have to wait till the government finds a new institute to resume their 18-month training of which they had completed a year, though inadequately.

Speaking to The Telegraph, a student said Sai Flytech had stopped giving them routine training from January 16. “On September 19, a team from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) came to inspect the academy. Thereafter, flying stopped completely,” he said, adding that Sai Flytech’s licence might have been cancelled. The DGCA, however, did not confirm it.

After the inspection, the academy management asked all the 26 candidates to go home, but they put their foot down, saying they would not leave the hostel till they were given the directive in writing or the Jharkhand government asked them to do so.

“On October 27, we were formally told that the MoU between Jharkhand and Sai Flytech had been cancelled and we must leave. We informed state welfare department officials about our return and came back on November 12,” said another aspirant.

This is the second time the aspiring pilots have come back without completing their training programme. In March 2009, they had been sent to the Hyderabad cradle, which was selected through an open tender. It was soon discovered that Spica Aviation had no DGCA licence to train commercial pilots.

Following the debacle, the state government invited an open tender yet again and Sai Flytech was selected. Jharkhand sanctioned Rs 5.59 crore for the training. Since the state government decided to reimburse the cost of flying and lodging every month, the total amount was not given to the institute, which had to be satisfied with Rs 1.70 crore.

The candidates, mostly from not-so-affluent background, were sent to Bilaspur on November 14 last year. As per the agreement, the institute should have given them 200 flying hours of training in 18 months. “But we completed only 60 hours in a year. The academy trained us for 40 minutes, but made entry of 50 minutes and made us sign the register,” a candidate said.

Protests earned insult. “Tribals, Scheduled Castes and OBCs ka aukat nahi hai pilot banne ka. Ye sarkar ka paisa hai, tumhara baap ka nahi. Jo mil raha hai karo (STs, SCs and OBCs are not eligible to become pilots. This is the government’s money, not your father’s. Be satisfied with what you are getting),” a student quoted a Sai Flytech official telling him. He added that nine students from Chhattisgarh, too, were forced to sign on registers containing fudged flying hours.

State welfare minister Champai Soren claimed the MoU with the Bilaspur academy had not been cancelled and Sai Flytech officials had misled the candidates.

“We are contemplating action against the academy for not honouring its agreement. Come what may, we will complete the training. We are exploring new possibilities. We are considering a programme at Ranchi Flying Club, which will come up in the next few months,” he said.

The Telegraph made repeated attempts to contact Sai Flytech officials, but numbers given on the academy’s website were either found to be invalid or switched off.

E.K. Bharat Bhushan, the director-general of civil aviation in Delhi, said inspecting flying institutes was a routine procedure.

“We look at discrepancies and correct them. We have taken action against some aviation cradles by suspending their licences. I, however, don’t recall suspending the licence of this institute (Sai Flytech)... The training of SC/ST students is part of a government programme being implemented in many states. I am not aware of this case (Jharkhand students being asked to leave), but will look into the matter.”

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