Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu’s inherited helicopter proves inadequate in crisis
Shimla, July 18
Himachal Pradesh, a northern Indian state, is reeling under the devastating impact of unprecedented natural calamities, which have severely paralyzed road, and rail, communication. The state’s infrastructure has suffered immense damage, leaving its residents stranded and facing a natural blackout. As a result, the government has been forced to rely on crippled helicopter sorties to provide assistance and relief to the affected areas. However, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu finds himself in a challenging situation as the state government does not possess any aircraft of its own.
Sukhu inherited a staggering borrowing inheritance of Rs 75,000 crore from the former BJP government. Additionally, he received an ailing helicopter from his predecessor, Jai Ram Thakur. The helicopter was intended for emergency response and airlifting people, particularly during heavy snowfall and when terrestrial communication is disrupted. However, this helicopter has recently encountered major technical issues, rendering it ineffective.
Since the onset of the natural calamities, the Chandigarh-Shimla airport has conducted a few sorties under the subsidized Udan Scheme. The state government, in desperate need of aircraft, requested assistance from the Indian Airforce and the Haryana Government. Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu utilized the helicopter made available through these arrangements for emergency purposes. However, due to the extensive disruption of roads and other infrastructure, the helicopter could not be deployed for aerial surveys during the crisis.
The previous government faced allegations of misusing the helicopter to serve close associates, leading to public scrutiny. The sudden demise of the state-owned helicopter in dire circumstances has further raised concerns, prompting the state government to consider initiating a probe into the helicopter deal and the reasons for its unserviceability. This comes as the government grapples with the burden of heavy bills incurred from hiring helicopter services.
Successive governments in Himachal Pradesh have been urging the central government to provide subsidized helicopter services, similar to those available in the northeastern states, to address the challenges of inaccessible hilly regions, especially tribal districts. However, the central government has previously overlooked these demands, focusing primarily on providing condolences instead of tangible support during past instances of heavy rainfall.
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu expressed frustration during relief operations, revealing that even the Indian Airforce declined to rescue approximately 300 stranded individuals, mostly tourists, from Chandertal. Citing safety reasons, the Indian Airforce’s refusal left the state government feeling helpless during this critical time.
Previous governments in Himachal Pradesh have not only spent public funds on hiring and servicing helicopters but also claimed to have built numerous helipads and heliports. Unfortunately, none of these projects have been commissioned, despite consuming significant state resources. The unproductive expenditure on such lavish infrastructure highlights the profligacy of political leaders if it fails to serve the public interest, despite their eloquent promises.
The lack of immediate support from both the central and state governments in providing essential services erodes public faith in their political wisdom and decision-making abilities during testing times. However, amidst these challenges, the well-off community has extended their hands by generously donating to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, while the hospitality industry has provided food, water, and shelter to the stranded tourists and passengers in the calamity-stricken state.
As Himachal Pradesh continues to battle the aftermath of these calamities, the state government faces immense pressure to address the helicopter shortage, investigate the causes of the aircraft’s malfunction, and ensure the provision of essential services to the affected population.
Empower Independent Journalism – Join Us Today!
We’re committed to unbiased, in-depth journalism that uncovers truth and gives voice to the unheard. To sustain our mission, we need your help. Your contribution, no matter the size, fuels our research, reporting, and impact.
Stand with us in preserving independent journalism’s integrity and transparency. Support free press, diverse perspectives, and informed democracy.
Click [here] to join and be part of this vital endeavour.
Thank you for valuing independent journalism.
Vishal Sarin, Editor