Bashir Malik

in the remote Drang village in Budgam’s Khag belt, Bashir falls in the below poverty line in official economic stratification of Kashmir society. Last week, he managed to creep to the front pages of the newspapers on the basis of the response to an RTI application he had filed about the operations of the civil aviation department of the J&K government.

Though this information is routinely revealed by the government in response to lawmakers’ questions in the assembly, this was for the first time that this information came into public domain through a person who used the new law that empowers individuals to get the information (s) he wants.

And the bits of information that have come in Malik’s response are interesting. The overall expenditure on the operations by CAD in 2009-10, 2010-11 and for the first quarter of 2011-12 has been to the tune of Rs 12 crores. It includes fuel, maintenance, staff salaries, licence renewal and hanger charges.

But the details released by the government do offer instances of the overuse, and possible misuse, of the flying machines by the chief minister Omar Abdullah. For instance, Omar drove to Nehru Helipad and then took the chopper to SKICC – all within 2 kms belt, and it happened four times in two years.

In July 2009, he flew from Nehru helipad to Dachigam national park and back. At the peak of 2010 unrest, Omar had created news by flying to SKIMS. Once, he even flew to Kashmir University. Flying to airport in a chopper is routine with J&K chief minister as per the RTI details.

A number of entries in the log suggest Omar flying to the scenic picnic spots too often. It includes Gulmarg, Pahalgam and other places. On August 14, 2009, for instance, Omar flew to Gulmarg thrice in a day from Srinagar! Similarly on June 15, 2010, a chopper flew three times between two locations in Leh.

After initially hiring the Pawan Hans during the regime of Dr Farooq Abdullah, J&K government started building its own CAD. Right now, it is the proud owner of one fixed wing aeroplane and two choppers. The latest helicopter Augusta 109 is in use of chief minister because it is the most sophisticated machine.

In the 30 months, details of which are now in public domain, the government spent two crores on fuel, more than five crore rupees on maintenance, wages to pilots cost Rs 3.21 crores as landing and parking charges amounted to Rs 21 lakhs.

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