Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Can Odisha get back the iconic Dakota aircraft, which was used by former chief minister Biju Patnaik, in time? Such apprehension is now rattling people in Odisha after Kolkata Airport authorities cleared their intention of removing the aircraft from the airport.

Though Odisha government has been claiming since long to bring back the Dakota, all its efforts seem to have remained in pen and paper only.

Moreover, the entire issue has sparked off a fresh debate after Shree Jagannath Sena, a religious outfit based in Puri claimed yesterday that it has received assurance of support from Airports Authority Of India (AAI) to restore the aircraft and display at a prominent place in Odisha.

At a presser at Urban Haat in Puri, Shree Jagannath Sena convener Priyadarshan Patnaik on Monday informed that members of the outfit had met Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and West Bengal CM in October and submitted a memorandum and requested them for getting the aircraft back to Odisha.

“We had met Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and West Bengal CM and submitted a memorandum. Now we have got a consent letter from AAI to get the aircraft,” said Patnaik.

Patnaik further alleged that earlier in 2017, Odisha chief secretary was asked to take the aircraft, but unfortunately no step was taken by Odisha government to bring the aircraft.

“Our efforts to bring back the Dakota aircraft have been successful. We will bring the aircraft to Odisha and preserve it in a museum which will be a befitting tribute to Biju Babu. If the State government doesn’t bring it in 15 days, we will bring it by collecting funds on our own,” Patnaik added.

At present, the Dakota aircraft is lying abandoned at isolation bay along with several other planes at Kolkata airport. The authorities are now trying to remove the aircraft as it is creating problems in the movement of other aircrafts at the airport.

Moreover, Kolkata airport authorities have also approached Metal Scrap Trading Corporation of India to dispose off the aircraft, informed Intach member, Anil Dhi,r who had initiated efforts to bring back the Dakota to Odisha.

“There is a norm that aircrafts are not given directly to individuals; rather it is disposed of by cutting it into pieces which usually reduces it to the value of scrap. We suspect that it will be discarded within a month or two. They are offering it free of cost on our platter, but we are yet to accept it which is really very unfortunate,” said Dhir.

It is pertinent to mention that former Odisha CM Biju Patnaik had flown the aircraft to rescue former Indonesian Vice-President Muhammad Hatta and Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir from their enemies in 1947. For this rescue mission, the government of Indonesia had honoured Biju Babu with the title of Bhumi Putra.

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