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Thursday, February 22, 2007

CMs’ heli-hopping a costly affair

Naheed Ataulla | TNN , Bangalore: The people of Karnataka are ruing the day our VIPs took fancy to choppers. For, the helicopter tab of our VIPs has been Rs 17 lakh on an average per month since 2004. Heli-hopping by chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, his predecessor N Dharam Singh and their cabinet colleagues has cost the public exchequer a total of Rs 5,39,45,695.
Information obtained by the Sunday Times of India under the RTI Act reveals this: Dharam Singh — Rs 3,41,52,782 (May 28, 2004 to Jan 29, 2006); Kumaraswamy — Rs 1,97,92,913 (Feb 3, 2006 to Jan 18,2007). The information furnished said the expenditure included the use of the helicopter by ministers and VIPs. But other cabinet members have seldom used it, except on occasions when they have been asked to rush to a district during an emergency.
Both also top the list in using private helicopters more often than the government’s Dhruv, taken on a two-year wet lease from the HAL from May 10, 2005. An advance payment of Rs 40 lakh has been made to the HAL.
As per the agreement, the government pays Rs 30 lakh per month as charges, while it is Rs 20,000 per flight hour excluding tax.
The number of flying hours is limited to an average of 50 hours per month.
Singh ran up a bill of Rs 2,06,82,913 exclusively for a private copter, while Kumaraswamy’s entire amount is for that. He did not use Dhruv for a year till he got a special puja done for it in Dharmasthala on January 3. No details have been furnished on whether this helicopter has been used since, with the lease set to expire in May this year. Kumaraswamy had promised after taking oath on February 3 that he will go by road and not use the helicopter so that he could be in direct contact with the people. Now, the CM does more heli-hopping and the reasons are “to be on time and avoid inconveniencing the people’’ in his entourage.
Publication: Times Of India Bangalore; Date:2007 Feb 18; Section:Times City; Page Number 5

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