A day ago, Kerala Police finally decided to hire a helicopter. The state has given nod to hire a helicopter for various purposes varying from fighting Maoists to conveyance of VVIPs. Pawan Hans Limited a Mini Ratna-I category PSU is the chosen service provider. Pawan has agreed to provide an AS 365 Dauphin N3, Medium Twin-Engine helicopter for a monumental fee of Rs 1.44 crores for mere 20 hours every month. The agreement signed by the State and Pawan also states that the company shall charge an additional fee of Rs 60,000 for every hour in excess of the 20 hour limit.
The 11 seater aircraft will always be available with a crew, pilot, flight officer conversant with police codes and radio call signs at the Thiruvanthapuram International Airport. The decision to rent out a chopper from Pawan Hans had been approved after long and intense deliberations by the Principal Secretary of the state.
Need for a Chopper.
The request for a chopper was submitted a few years back when V.S. Achuthanthan was the CM. But the request was rejected by the then LDF government. It was on October 2018, the head of State Police Department, Loknath Behere submitted a request again.
The officials say that an air support system is imperative for emergency security threats. The chopper is said to be of aid to the Thunderbolts, SWAT, and also to intercept armed terrorists and in movement of the bomb squad.
Apart from security, the Police Department claims that this chopper would prove highly beneficial for rescue operations in the case of a natural calamity and also would aid in marine search and operations considering the increasing cases of missing fishermen.
The police department believes that having a chopper for themselves would make surveillance and rescue operations speedy and cost efficient as they need not wait for the Indian Navy or Air Force for aid. But there are speculations that this decision comes after the Maoist fiasco that unraveled in the state few weeks back even even the police say that the chopper wouldn’t be used for anti-Moaists operations until the situation demands aerial survey to track and locate armed insurgents.
The requirements stated to the officials were just that of the presence of equipment required for rescue operations.
Now, there are several loose ends to this deal. The opposition has come down strong on the Government for signing a deal with Pawan Hans when another private service provider Chipson Aviation was ready to provide larger services for a cheaper rate.
Chipsan Aviation is a Private Limited Company based in New Delhi, founded in 2012. The same company had provided the State free aviation services for rescue operations during the horrific 2018 floods.
The company came out accusing the government illegally side-lining their quotation and giving the deal to Pawan Hans. Chipsan Aviation had offered the State to provide 3 helicopters for 90 hours every month for the same price i.e 1.44 crores. The stark difference in the service provided for the same price by two service providers have got the opposition and other stakeholders wondering if there has been any foul play in this deal.
When Pawan Hans provides a single helicopter and charges Rs.1.44 crores for 20 hours a month, Chipsan had offered to provide 3 helicopters for 30 hours each at three different parts of the state for the same monthly fee.
The Police Department was quick to come out with an explanation as to why Pawan made the cut. The police department claims that Pawan was offered the deal after Chipsan Aviation had failed to provide a 11 seater helicopter while Chipsan aviation officials say that at no point during the negotiation did the requirement of 11 seater had been intimated to them by the police department. The requirements stated to the officials were just that of the presence of equipment required for rescue operations. The officials further added that the helicopter provided by Pawan Hans does not include any rescue operation equipment in it. It shall also be noted that states affected severely by Maoist activities like West Bengal and Jharkhand and states having constant violent terror threats and natural calamities like Jammu & Kashmir are all availing services from Chipsan Aviation. So the police’s claim of choosing the chopper that would suit the needs better does not stand.
But what is of pure fascination is the fact that in the agreement, along with the operational uses of the chopper, a particular use has been subtly mentioned; Conveyance of ‘VVIPs’. In the state, VVIPs are the Governer and the CM. So in short this chopper can be very well used by the CM for inaugurations and for laying foundation stones.
This is yet again another irresponsible decision by the state government not considering the final benefit coming out of such an expenditure and if this outcome actually justifies the expenditure.
It is this lack of prudence of this government that has lead the state to a grievous financial tension.