MINISTERS AIRBORNE TO AVOID PUBLIC CONTACT
VIPs Fly To Srinagar Airport By Choppers
Srinagar, Aug 3: With the prevailing unrest spreading to the localities on the IG road, the ministers in Kashmir are using the state chopper even to reach the Srinagar airport for onward journey to Jammu and Delhi.
The ministers prefer to travel to the airport by chopper to “avoid public contact,” sources said.
Highly fortified Nehru helipad in the foothills of picturesque Zabarwan range here, is witnessing a heavy rush of state’s top brass to travel to other districts as also to the Srinagar airport.
Highly placed sources told Greater Kashmir that the ministers are finding it the “only safe passage” for reaching their destinations as it has become difficult for them to travel by road in any part of the Valley given the public rage.
The state owned helicopters - Agusta and Bell-407 –are working almost overtime making scores of sorties to various parts of the Valley. The helipad remains busy from wee hours till late in the evening.
The state’s top brass –putting up along the plush Gupkar and adjoining Church Lane, Sonawar find road travel safe but only up to the nearby Nehru Helipad as the entire stretch is heavily guarded by the paramilitary CRPF troopers and policemen.
Sources said since last week when the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah asked his ministers including Abdul Rahim Rather, Ali Muhammad Sagar, Taj Mohiuddin and Nasir Sogami to monitor situation in various districts, the battery opted for the helicopter ride fearing that the road travel could invite trouble. From Pulwama in south Kashmir to Varmul in north, the air sorties proved a blessing for VIP trips.
“Prevention is better than cure. Why invite unnecessary fury and get our cavalcades torched if we can reach our destinations safely by air,” argues a minister requesting not to be named. “Moreover,” he pleads, “the air travel was sparing the use of additional contingencies to provide security en-route.”
“We aren’t travelling for enjoyment but for everybody’s safety,” he argued.
Pertinently, on Monday when the Airport Road was on boil with hundreds of protesters on streets for the entire day, for the crucial trip to New Delhi, the Chief Minister himself had to travel to the Airport by chopper from near his Gupkar residence.
On his return to the Srinagar, Omar again rode the Bell 407 back home. The Civil Aviation department declined to comment on the sorties these days.
“This is not the time for such queries. You better contact Mr Ganie, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister,” said an aviation official.
Pertinently, in the past 3-years, the state government spent Rs 8.65 crore on the fuel, maintenance and taxing of state aircraft and two helicopters.
The state owns an aircraft (King Air 350) and two helicopters (Agusta and Bell-407).
Though the government declines to disclose purpose of the official sorties, citing security considerations, the air fleet of the state government took 1605 sorties from January 2009 to January 2010.
In June last year the sorties had escalated after Shopian double rape and murder. Official records reveal that the highest sorties were of Bell 407. The highest number of 271 sorties of the state air fleet were recorded in June 2009.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 3 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 3 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 4 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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