Thiruvananthapuram: A French paragliding professional has written to the director of tourism after encountering a ‘Catch 22’ situation.
Mr Aurelien Schot, despite a level-5 International Pilot Proficiency Identification (IPPI) card from Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, is unable to earn his livelihood. This is because the police at Varkala station has asked him to produce a local paragliding licence, though there is no authority in the state nor the country to issue it.
The offices of Kerala Tourism and Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society had no idea about issuing licence for adventure sports activities. Varkala circle inspector K. Vinukumar said that he had called Mr Schot to the station after the “public complained that there was paragliding.”
Thiruvananthapuram Rural SP P. Asok Kumar said that he won’t be able to comment on the situation without receiving a petition. But it is not to complain about local authorities that he raises the issue, says Mr Schot. “I feel the situation here should be favourable for all adventure sports, be it paragliding or surfing,” he says. Mr Schot, who has been living in India since 2008, is married to a Malayali named Reshma Schot and holds an Overseas Citizenship of India. A professional paragliding instructor and a tandem pilot trained in France, Mr Schot had approached the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for a licence. However, they told him that they issue a licence only for powered paraglider, not a hang glider.
The state and central governments do not stipulate such a licence for hang gliding, though permission needs to be sought when flying close to defence areas, according to Mr Vinil Thomas, a paragliding professional based at Vagamon. He too had to spend almost four years trying to convince the forest department, before he could start the paragliding venture at Vagamon. Now it is one of the few spots in the country to offer paragliding.
In the case of beach paragliding, the risk is minimum, according to Mr Vinil Thomas.
“One would be like a baby in a cradle since the sea breeze is smooth and gentle and one is just around 20 m higher. But in general, paragliding in India is done well by professionals, as even one accident can bring down the shutters. The risk is 0.001 in India,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is a danger of amateur paragliders invading the scene and putting lives at risk. For this reason, the government should ideally set up a licensing procedure for adventure sports.
Tourism secretary Rani George and director P. Balakiran were not available for comments....