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The Plane Truth

 

The government has wasted Rs 750 crore on five VIP aircraft that never really took off
PRAMOD KUMAR | Issue Dated: May 13, 2007
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The Plane Truth Should one blame the bureaucrat who makes such deals or the politician who requisitions them? The truth is that the NDA government spent Rs 750 crore on a project that in effect never took off.

The project that had been undertaken to provide the Indian netaji with luxurious air travel within the country involved the acquiring of five aircraft from the Brazilian Embraer Aviation Company. Four of the aircraft were initially meant for the Air Force, while one was meant for the Union Home Ministry. Lack of planning and farsightedness resulted in the deal being executed without a provision for supply of spares for the aircraft. Consequently, this led to two planes having to be cannibalised for their parts, which were then used as spares for the other planes. Currently, however, while two of the three aircraft that survived have also become junk, the third is in a hangar of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi.

The inefficiency did not end with the execution of the lopsided deal with the Brazilian company. The 19-seater aircraft that was supposed to be used by the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister now lies grounded for want of a pilot. The home ministry has only four pilots to fly the six aircraft it owns. Of them only two can fly the Embraer.

All four of them have, however, resigned from their jobs – and more than once at that – drawn by private airlines that offer salaries ranging from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh a month as compared to the measly Rs 35,000 the ministry pays its pilots as salary. The ministry, in response, has refused to accept the resignations of the pilots on the ground that it can’t do so till their replacements are recruited. The position taken by the government in the matter has not helped, as one of the two Embraer pilots has not reported for duty for over three months now. Not surprisingly, the offer of the ministry has failed to attract trainee pilots.

Speaking to TSI, a spokesperson for the ministry, while conceding that the government could not match offers made by private airlines, said it offered facilities and security that the private sector could not. Any change in their pay-scales would however require a similar change in all other sectors, he pointed out. By that time, the planes that never really took off the ground would have turned to scrap in toto.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017