This Article is From Apr 30, 2011

Meghalaya suspends Pawan Hans service, wants replacement

Meghalaya suspends Pawan Hans service, wants replacement
Shillong: Suspending the Pawan Hans helicopter services operating in Meghalaya with immediate effect, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Saturday said he would take up the issue of replacing the ageing choppers with his counterparts in the northeast.

"What is happening is a matter of concern. This is not the first time that such an incident has happened," Sangma said, reacting to the helicopter of Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu going missing after taking-off from Tawang and being later found in Bhutan.

"I was surprised to learn that the helicopter in which Dorjee Khandu was travelling had a single engine. We cannot take life of people for granted," Sangma said, adding that he would speak to his counterparts in the northeast about the helicopter service considering the difficult terrain and weather.

Transport Minister AT Mondal told PTI he instructed his office to close down its office at Guwahati and not issue any more tickets.

"We have been writing to them (Pawan Hans), but there is no response. They are not taking care. The condition of the helicopter is not good," Mondal said of the lone one of the Pawan Hans, which operates daily from Shillong to Tura via Guwahati and back.

The minister said the license of Pawan Hans to operate in Meghalaya had expired long back, but due to the requirements it was allowed to operate.

He said the state would write to the Centre and call for fresh tenders for operating the service.

"We have not blacklisted Pawan Hans. They can apply again, but they have to be competent," Mondal said. Khandu's helicopter was the third to get into trouble in the northeast in the last fortnight.

On April 19, a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed in the mountains of Tawang, bordering Tibet, killing all 17 people on board.

In 2004, ten people, including a cabinet minister and two MLAs from Meghalaya, were killed in a similar crash near here.