High-flying Badal gives his security a nightmare

October 15th, 2008 - 10:50 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Oct 15 (IANS) Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s high-flying visits across the state in a helicopter have become a security nightmare for those responsible for protecting him, officials say.Repeated snags developed by the hired chopper in recent months have literally “grounded” the chief minister, forcing him to travel by road at the last minute.

“This is not only leading to the chief minister reaching venues of various events late but also is a nightmare for security officials as last-minute arrangements have to be made en route,” a senior Punjab Police official told IANS.

Since Badal has been provided the highest Z-plus category security cover, this means deploying police personnel along the entire route he travels by road - something that is difficult to do at short notice.

The chief minister’s security officials recently shot off a letter to the state government and the civil aviation department, urging them to take up the matter with the public sector Pawan Hans Limited, from which the helicopter has been hired.

The letter said: “It is intimated that many a times, snags occurred in the chopper of hon’ble chief minister, Punjab. This happened during the visit of the VIP to Anandpur Sahib, Jalandhar and Ludhiana and hon’ble chief minister travelled by road due to this snag.

“On 15.08.2008, the chopper again (developed) a snag at Chandigarh and the chief minister had to travel by road to Chappar Mela (District Ludhiana-rural). This is a great security risk from the chopper itself and also fool-proof security arrangements cannot be made in short time notice,” the letter added.

Officials of Punjab’s civil aviation department say that they have already brought the matter to the notice of the Pawan Hans managing director and other senior officials.

“We have taken up the matter with Pawan Hans,” Director (Civil Aviation) Gagandeep Singh Brar said.

However, Punjab’s Civil Aviation Minister Upinderjit Kaur told IANS that she had no idea about the problem with the chopper.

Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who too fancied flying a lot while he was chief minister, faced similar snags with his official chopper. His helicopter once crashed just after taking off, but he, a minister in his government and others escaped. This was in 2006.

On another occasion, Amarinder Singh’s helicopter crash-landed in the compound of a school in Pinjore town in Haryana while he was returning from Himachal Pradesh.

Two ministers of the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana, Surender Singh and O.P. Jindal, had died in March 2005 when their chopper crashed in Uttar Pradesh. The helicopter, which was owned by Jindal (who was an industrialist and chairman of the Jindal Steel group), was on its way to Delhi.

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