The Telegraph
Tuesday , February 19 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Campaign on a high in poll-bound states
Cong banner in the skies

Tura, Feb. 18: Paraglider Nikolai Singh is ready to take to the skies as he prepares to campaign for the Congress at AICC president Sonia Gandhi’s rally here tomorrow.

In between checking his equipment at his hotel here, Singh, son of former air commodore A.K. Singh and grandson of one of India’s first IPS officers Maharaj Singh, is worried and upbeat at the same time.

“February 19 is a big day for me and for paragliding in the state. One smooth flight, weather permitting, before Congress president Sonia Gandhi tomorrow and I might be able to serve the ruling party in election campaigns in other states as well,” the 41-year-old, who could be easily mistaken for a defence person given his appearance and disciplined way of handling men and machines, told The Telegraph.

Like local Congressmen who have pulled out all stops for a successful rally at MP Stadium, not far from National People’s Party (NPP) president P.A. Sangma’s residence, Singh is preparing for a smooth flight over the stadium, displaying a Congress banner seeking votes for the party.

Given his passion for adventure sport and his vision to popularise it by making Garo hills the hub of Fly Games Series, an aerial competition, which he is planning to launch by the end of the year in Phulbari Assembly constituency, Singh says paragliding could be an effective tool to reach out to remote areas by political parties during polls and motivate people to vote besides being of great help during disasters and security operations.

“Its utility goes beyond being just a sport in the defence forces and a tool for aerial advertising by corporate houses. My dream is to make it really big given its varied utility in India. If it’s used by a national party for election campaign, it will help me achieve my goals.,” Singh, the president of Meghalaya Paragliding Association, said.

Besides, paragliders are cheap compared to helicopters, can fly very low and slow for desired impact, can take off from both plains and hills and can log 40-60km an hour, he added.

“As of now, I have paramotor trike (for two persons) and foot launch (for one person). There are flying equipment for disaster management, tourism and sport. Thermal imaging and infrared vision can be fitted at the bottom of the trike to help in rescue-and-search operations. Everything has to be imported. The cost ranges between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 8 lakh and can go upto Rs 25 lakh. It can fly between five feet and 18,000 feet and from three to six hours,” he said.

Singh, who settled in Shillong after marrying a Khasi, claims his is the only paragliding association in India that is recognised both by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the Indian Air Force. “But I want the sector to be strictly regulated so that it does not get into wrong hands or it can be quite disastrous. I have covered the entire Garo hills and the response has been overwhelming. I want to start a paragliding Team India for the Fly Games Series which will see participants from over 20 countries,” Singh said.