Bengal government to 'wet lease' twin-engine aircraft
The Bengal government has decided to take on a “wet lease” of three to five years a twin-engine aircraft with a “minimum seating capacity of 8-10 passengers”, according to a tender floated by the West Bengal Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIDC).
Senior officials of the transport department said the aircraft would be for ministers and senior bureaucrats on official trips.
In a wet lease, the owner provides the aircraft as well as the crew to the lessee and is responsible for maintenance.
The Bengal government will assure a minimum business of 45 hours every month, the tender document states.
Senior transport department officials said several states, including Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, had this arrangement. They stressed that there was no scope for any irregularity as the e-tender was a public document and could be accessed by any willing participant.
The tender, floated on June 11, invites an earnest money of Rs 10 lakh for a three-year contract, which could be extended to five years on “mutual agreement”.
The WBIDC has spelt out that the aircraft operator should have a minimum of five years’ experience in operating a fixed-wing twin-engine aircraft with stand-up cabin space and capable of flying any distance within India.
“The aircraft and crew as appointed to operate should be technically and appropriately qualified enough to undertake day as well as night operations..." the tender document states.
Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of Opposition in the Assembly, tweeted: “Pushpak Rath for (self proclaimed) PM??? Dissatisfied with helicopter's range, process of acquiring a 10 seater Airplane has been initiated. Convenient for whimsical criss-crossing of the entire country for upcoming Loksava poll campaigning? On Govt expenses?”
Transport minister Firhad Hakim reminded Adhikari that the process had been initiated when he was the state transport minister. "The file (for hiring the aircraft) was moved during his tenure as transport minister." said Hakim.
“The file bears his signature and today he is criticising the move.”