As many as 68 helicopter rides to their home village in Muktsar and 43 rides to their farmhouse at Balasar (Haryana)—all in the course of just about four years—now threaten to indictment of Punjab Government officials who are accused of not following rules.
Replying to queries raised by the CAG, officials of the civil aviation department are learnt to have said that permission for the flights were given by the ‘competent authority’ and that post-facto justifications were also provided. But the auditors are not impressed and have not found any ‘public interest’ in the rides so far.
The state government helicopter, bought for Rs 38 crore in 2012, ferried not just the former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, but also their friends and relatives. BJP leaders (not named yet) and even godmen like Sri Sri Ravishankar of the Art of Living Foundation were ferried in the helicopter.
A Ropar based RTI activist Dinesh Chadha had sought details of the flights and found that there was no mention of the ‘purpose’ in the logbooks or in other documents related to the rides. These, he had complained to the CAG, were private rides at public cost.
Between 2012 and 2016, the Badals are said to have spent Rs 167 Crore in buying the helicopter, hiring private helicopters and in fuel and maintenance of the helicopter. The use of the Government helicopter alone by the Badals is estimated to have cost one Crore of Rupees a month.
The 68 trips to their home village and 43 trips to their farmhouse had ferried among others the Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who happens to be the wife of Sukhbir Badal, her bother former Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Parkash Singh Badal’s son-in-law Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon.