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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Even after officials of the BPI Airport and Chilika Development Authority presented their stance on the former MP Jay Panda’s helicopter route and plan approval, the police summons to IMFA and Panda have been reportedly framed with lot of discrepancies.

In a tweet, Panda mentioned that the FIR by Odisha Police changed ‘sea plane’ to ‘helicopter’ adding that the alleged time of chopper landing at Chilika has also been changed. Sharing a few pictures as a proof against the discrepancies, he further claimed the Air Traffic Control (ATC) records have the actual facts on the timings.

On whether he flouted any air safety or air traffic rules by flying over Chilika Lake and over the temples,  Panda said in a “Stop and ask” video in circulation on Twitter, “This is a completely fabricated allegation. The lake is not a ‘no-fly’ zone as has been claimed in the FIR filed by the state government authorities neither are the temples. I was nowhere in the vicinity of the lake.”

“The FIR alleges that the landing took place at 1:30 pm when the ATC records will show that the helicopter I fly was safely parked in Bhubaneswar Airport many many miles away from Chilika.”
“Originally the allegation was that it was a sea plane, which I don’t fly. I fly helicopter. And when I fly over temples for sightseeing with people, it is at the safe distance and in this case, it was about 3 kms away and at the prescribed altitude. So no regulations were broken.”

In fact the Chief Minister’s helicopter routinely flies over Chilika, Jay remarked in the same video.

He further stated, “Recently, over the last week or two, I have been travelling around the State and getting a lot of traction. So may be that was making some people nervous.”

Even the Odisha Forest Minister, who had stated that Chilika’s ecology has not been affected because of a helicopter flying over it, changed his statements later in the day on Tuesday saying the chopper was flying low disturbing wildlife in the brackish water lake.

Also Read: Op-Ed: Politics Enters ‘No-fly’ Zone

Earlier on Tuesday, Odisha Forest & Environment minister, Bijayshree Routray said, “Chilika’s ecology has not been affected because of helicopter flying over it. It had only created panic among fishermen in the region. There was no scope for loss in biodiversity but he will not be allowed to repeat this further.  Law will take its own course as per the FIR lodged. ”

However, he again called media persons and changed his statements saying, “The helicopter went around Chilika, especially the mouth and flew close to the Rajhans Island. The chopper was flying very low disturbing wildlife where dolphins, birds and other flora and fauna sustain. As there was a miscommunication, I am clarifying on this.”

Meanwhile, authorities of IMFA Aviation who were served notices in connection with the incident, appeared before the police today.

A five-member team of the IMFA Aviation met the IIC of Sadar Police Station who is also In-charge of Arakhakuda Marine PS and presented the documents sought by the police in connection with the incident.

While deposing before investigating officer in Puri on chopper landing row, IMFA Aviation authorities clarified on 3 issues - The chopper was flown at the prescribed altitude, had not landed in Chilika & it was elsewhere at the time mentioned in the FIR- and have also sought time to present more details.

The next hearing is scheduled to be held on September 24.

Puri district police had earlier asked the IMFA authorities, pilot of the chopper and two passengers to appear and give their explanation for allegedly flying a chopper and making unauthorised landing on Chilika Lake.

After an FIR by Chilika authorities at Arakhakuda, police began a preliminary probe and later sealed the hangar of the IMFA Aviation while registering a case under aircraft act, wildlife protection act and under sections 277, 278 and 279 of IPC.

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