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Bhopal City
Cash strapped MP government to buy Rs 100cr jet for Shivraj

Bhopal: Sitting on a whopping debt pile of Rs 1.13 lakh crore, the Madhya Pradesh government has confirmed to buy a new plane for chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, at an estimated cost of approximately Rs 100 crore.

The existing carrier, a seven-seater Super King Air Beechcraft-200, was purchased in 2002, from an American company Raytheon Aircraft for Rs 23-crore. On January 31, 2015, this aircraft recorded successful flights of 7314 hours and 30 minutes.

“Now it’s time to get new wings for the state as the current career needs to be grounded soon after completing the maximum recommended lifespan,” justified Narottam Mishra, spokesperson of MP government. He said state the cabinet has approved the purchase and formed a technical committee to select the suitable career as early as possible. “We have earmarked Rs 80 crore for the new turbo jet aircraft,” he added.

As per official sources, the current B-200 aircraft has not yet completed its lifespan of 15 years, which in normal case is recommended by aviation experts. Moreover, for every new purchase a five per cent commission is to be paid to the agency who acts as an intermediary. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India and Public Account Committee is believed to be keeping an eye on the purchase procedure.

Sources quoting aviation officials said that maximum lifespan of B-200 aircraft would end soon but the main reason for replacing it was the aircraft takes much time in travelling long distances which in a jet plane reduced to 25 per cent. “This has forced the CM and other VVIPs to use private planes. Buying a new aircraft is inevitable,” said the sources.

Interestingly, the decision to purchase a jet would also cost dearer to the state’s coffer for, the government need to construct air strips suitable for the landing of a jet. As per Aviation department, there are 21 air strips and five airports in the state. Four airports Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Khajuraho are managed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) while one Gwalior airport comes under Indian Air Force (IAF) have a base for Mirage fighter plane. Remaining 21 airstrips are maintained by the state Public Works Department (PWD).

“The new jet aircraft will be able to land only in seven places as per the specifications required for a runway. The government will have to construct new runways in other cities which would cost more than 300-crore”, said the sources adding that a new Beechcraft 250 would suffice the purpose of the government which would cost Rs 40 to 45 crore, but the officials are not ready to budge.

It was informed that a high-level technical committee would recommend the purchase of a 12-to-15-seater new jet aircraft with the latest amenities and best safety standards as suggested by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). After technical recommendations tendering process will begin. Sources also point out that due to increased prices and the high dollar rates, the new aircraft may cost around Rs 100-crore.

It was also stated that after a few mishaps, a slew of safety standards were made compulsory by the DGCA following which the state government had to replace its Bell-407 helicopter in 2011 and purchased a twin-engine euro-copter EC 155 B1 from a French aviation company at 10.5 million Euros (around Rs 6.6 crore). The six-seater chopper has travelled 1221 hours and 14 minutes till January 31, 2015.