The Telegraph
Friday , March 21 , 2014
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Aircraft purchase plan in limbo

The state civil aviation departmentís plan to procure four choppers has already been grounded because chief minister Hemant Soren is believed to be unconvinced with the modalities involved.

In February, the civil aviation department floated expression of interests for buying four flying machines in a go for different purposes by the end of 2013-14 fiscal.

The aircraft included one turboprop aircraft (8-10 passengers) and a twin-engine turbo shaft (five-seater) for VIP flying, apart from a double-engine piston aircraft for training and a single-engine helicopter (2+5/6 or 2+2 seating capacity) for medical purpose. Over Rs 80 crore was kept aside for the project.

Now, with only a few days left for the current fiscal to end, department officials do not appear to be quite optimistic about the plan.

Further, the Hemant Soren government is on shaky ground with a number of MLAs supporting the alliance shifting allegiance to the opposition parties ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

As a matter of fact, the chief minister, who also holds the aviation portfolio, hasnít even returned the original file forwarded to him about a month ago.

Speaking to The Telegraph, secretary (civil aviation) Sajal Chakraborty said he was in the process of writing a letter to Hemant, seeking his permission to begin the procedures.

ďAround a couple of weeks ago, we had a meeting with the chief minister, his personal secretary Sukhdeo Singh, chief secretary R.S. Sharma and finance secretary A. P. Singh in this regard. They were of the view that the matter should be sent to the cabinet for its nod first. For this, the minister concerned has to return the file. Moreover, no cabinet meeting is scheduled in the recent future. So, for the moment, you can say that the project is in limbo,Ē said Chakraborty.

After Jharkhand came into existence, it has not been able to procure a single aircraft of its own. After a couple of failed attempts, the civil aviation department again started work on procuring four aircraft.

To avoid bureaucratic hassles and lengthy procedures, the department devised a plan to procure aircraft on a type selection basis.

Accordingly, two different committees were formed.

One committee, comprising experts from states like Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, would identify the best variant of aircraft.

The second one, which only included state officials, would negotiate prices for procurement.

The first committee was scheduled to meet in New Delhi in the second week of March

Chakraborty said he had already spoken to all chief secretaries of the participating states and they had agreed to part with their nominated officials for a day to meet in New Delhi. But, the meeting could not be held, as chief minister Hemant is yet to give a go-ahead.

ďThe type selection basis suited Jharkhand, but apparently the chief minister and other officials here are apprehensive about the process and stressed on going through the cabinet,Ē explained another official.