Congress seeks clarification on Odisha CM’s Rs 26.55cr chopper ride expenses

Bhubaneswar: Amidst the controversy stirred by a letter from Odisha government seeking clarification on Governor’s chopper expenses, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president, Niranjan Patnaik sought an explanation from the Chief Minister on his Rs 26.55 crore expenditure pertaining to helicopter rides by him and his party members in last 3 years.

Niranjan took to Twitter and wrote: “Wouldn’t it be just great if CM also explains how he & his colleagues spent Rs 26.55 CRORE on helicopter rides in last 3 years!”

According to sources, the State government doesn’t have its own airplanes and choppers and rents them from a company OSS Air Management Pvt Ltd.

For 33 hours 45 minutes, Rs 92,76,275 was paid to OSS for a twin engine helicopter in May 2018, however, on May 16 another helicopter from Pinnacleair Pvt Ltd was used for CM’s visit to Jharsuguda. The bill amount for which was Rs 10,33,000 for a single visit.

Slamming the BJD ministers and the CM, Congress leader and opposition chief whip Taraprasad Bahinipati said “Sports minister used a helicopter to watch a football match while CM Naveen Patnaik uses choppers to go to Cuttack. They are misusing the taxpayer’s money.”

Similarly, BJP spokesperson Golak Mahapatra said: “The expenses of the choppers meant for anti-Maoist operations used by Odisha government ministers should be revealed in public.”

According to a CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report, Pawan Hans choppers meant for anti-Maoist operations are being used by BJD ministers. These choppers were used 341 times out of which they were deployed 53 times for anti-Maoist operations and the rest for government work.

In general, States keep their own choppers to use it for important works. Odisha government too had their own choppers but during Naveen Patnaik’s tenure the choppers were sold off, sources said.

Even questions are being raised on the existence of the Directorate of Aviation and government aviation training institute at a time when flights and choppers are being rented.

Speaking on the issue, Pilot Captain Raj Mohapatra said “On many occasions luxury aircrafts have been used for the Chief Minister. Even though there is a Directorate of Aviation and a training institute, the Odisha government is not interested and chooses to get planes on rent.”

Meanwhile, ruling-BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra has termed the allegations levelled by the Opposition as baseless.

“Odisha government is currently inspecting the issue. If any problems are found they will be resolved. But it won’t be apt to respond to the baseless allegations of the Opposition,” Patra said.

 

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