Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal will travel by road for most of his official engagements as his chopper will be deployed for people living in snowbound areas during winter - a measure to cut flying costs.
Dhumal has decided to ground his flying plans so that the 26-seater chopper can be used to ferry people who remain cut off from the rest of the country after roads close down due to heavy snow, an official said.
Ajay Bhandari, secretary of the general administration department, told IANS Sunday that this year no special chopper would be hired for airlifting residents of Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts as it was too expensive. Only the chief minister`s personal chopper would be deployed there and it would charge Rs.700 as fare per person, he said.
"The decision not to use the chopper during official engagements was taken by the chief minister himself. He has directed the department that he would travel by road most of the time and the chopper would be deployed in snow-bound areas," Bhandari said.
"Of course, the decision is part of government`s austerity drive," he added.
Last year the government hired a five-seater private chopper during winter. For that, the government had to shell out Rs 152,000 per flying hour.
Currently, the government is using Jagson Airlines` 26-seater chopper that has been provided at a rate of Rs 132,000 per hour.
For more than four months every year, the people of this landlocked valley in Lahaul and Spiti district and some areas in Kinnaur and Chamba districts remain cut off, owing to heavy snowfall.
The climatic conditions in those areas are harsh as the temperature plummets to as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius.