Uproar over Himachal minister, kin using official chopper

A Himachal Pradesh minister has landed in controversy for flying with his daughters in a government helicopter to attend an official engagement in the snow-bound town of Keylong.

Last Updated: Apr 16, 2011, 12:49 PM IST

Shimla: A Himachal Pradesh minister has landed in controversy for flying with his daughters in a government helicopter to attend an official engagement in the snow-bound town of Keylong.

Though Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Jairam Thakur Saturday offered to pay for the flight, the opposition Congress has demanded a probe into the matter.

The Congress said the chopper was meant for transporting sick and old people from Keylong and nearby areas in Lahaul and Spiti district.

Thakur told a news agency he was to preside over a Himachal Day function in Keylong Friday.

"I was told by the general administration department (GAD) that a four-seater chopper was specially arranged for my visit. Since my official staff was not accompanying with me, I preferred to take my two teenaged daughters with me. Even local legislator Ram Lal Markandey travelled with me from Kullu to Keylong," he said.

"I landed at Keylong at 7.30 am and came back to Kullu at 1 pm after attending the function. I am even ready to foot the entire bill of the sortie," he said.

Ajay Bhandari, secretary of the GAD, said the department is still looking into the matter. "The chopper was arranged for the minister and it has nothing to do with the rescue operation."

He said an Indian Air Force 26-seater chopper was deployed in Lahaul and Spiti from April 11 to 14 and it carried out six sorties to rescue people in emergency.

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 chopper is the only mode of transportation.

IANS