Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Police have floated a tender inviting bids from aviation firms for renting a helicopter ignoring complaints of the government splurging money during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tender was floated after the validity of the contract for the existing rotorcraft expired in April. The tender floated is for a six-seater helicopter for a period of three years. The tender has laid out conditions that the chopper should not be old, and it was expected to be airborne for more than 20 hours a month.
The government has spent Rs 22.21 crore for the helicopter it had taken on rent last year. Though the DGP recommended floating a new tender, it was held back in the office of the chief secretary. The Chief Minister's Office too deferred making a decision, saying a call would be taken on the chopper after the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State took a helicopter on hire for a year from Pawan Hans Limited in April 2020 for a monthly rent of Rs 2 crore. A tender was not issued for hiring the chopper, and a Bengaluru-based helicopter service provider, who offered to fly three choppers for the same amount was bypassed while awarding the contract to Noida-headquartered Pawan Hans.
The helicopter, however, was used only five times during the first six months, and Rs 10.2 crore was given as rent. The chopper remained on the ground during the final five months of the contract due to the outbreak of COVID-19, though the State footed the rent. DGP Loknath Behera used the chopper just before his retirement to visit the Maoist areas in Wayanad.
Meanwhile, police records claimed that the helicopter which was to fly for 240 hours, was airborne for about 150 hours. Earlier, the UDF government under Oommen Chandy had plans to have a permanent air ambulance in the State. Incidentally, the Navy charges below Rs 1 lakh for a single use of its chopper within the State.