Mumbai: The annual average bills of frequent helicopter travels by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis come to around Rs 6 crore, an RTI reply has revealed. RTI activist Anil Galgali said that the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said that a chopper crash in May 2017 and unavailability of pilots or helicopters increase the air travel costs.
As per the information provided on its RTI plea, Galgali said in 2014-2015, Fadnavis’ air travel cost was Rs.5.37 crore, followed by Rs.5.42 crore the following year and Rs.7.23 crores last year (2016-2017). After the state government’s helicopter crashed and was damaged beyond repair, choppers were hired since May 2017, for which only the rentals came to Rs 6.19 crore during 2017-2018, Galgali said.
Incidentally, the state government also owns an aircraft, but the pilot has quit and so for nearly a year, the aircraft lay unutilized. As a result, the state had to spend Rs 13.23 crore either on rental for hiring aircraft or pilots on contract basis in 2017-2018, indicating that the costs of the the Chief Minister’s air travels shot up drastically after its own chopper was grounded.
Since there was a large turnover of pilots, the state even hired the services of foreign pilots for which necessary rules and administrative procedures were followed, Galgali cited the reply as saying. After the chopper crash last May, the state government said it had initiated the process to procure a new helicopter by floating global tenders after due diligence and transparency, he said. The process has reached the final stage and the state government is likely to order the new helicopters shortly.