Thiruvananthapuram: The state government may opt to have a helicopter for disaster management in view of the controversies triggered by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s helicopter rides recently.
Earlier, the government had shelved the plans owing to concerns of misuse by VIPs as well as high maintenance costs, though a helicopter would be ideal for a state like Kerala having many hilly terrains and vast coastline.
State police chief Loknath Behera preferred to be tight-lipped on the matter. "Those are all security- related matters which can't be divulged to the media," he told DC.
A twin-engine helicopter ideal for rescue operations and VIP movements would cost Rs 20 crore to Rs 35 crore, industry sources said. The previous UDF government had mooted a proposal to buy helicopters using the central funds for modernisation of Fire and Rescue Services. But some top officials of the FRS objected to it, citing practical difficulties.
Later, there was a proposal to buy a helicopter for the state by utilising disaster relief funds. But the State Disaster Management Authority also then cited that there were more cons than pros for the state to have its own helicopter.
According to a former FRS top official, the major concern in purchasing a helicopter was that it might be widely misused for VIP travels and may not be available for immediate rescue operations. “Hence we had used the funds for buying equipment for FRS stations,” he said.
Former head of State Disaster Management Centre, K.G. Thara, said that though a helicopter for disaster management would be useful, there were many practical difficulties like maintenance costs. Hence it would be more ideal to strengthen agencies like FRS and marine enforcement by equipping them with modern gadgets like sky ladders and high speed boats.
Though the Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy of the state government has three operational aircraft and a new one awaiting clearance for operations, those were not ideal for VIP movements or rescue operations, said sources.