Bhubaneswar: The hiring of choppers for Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and other ministers a number of times during the past six years was done in violation of rules and wasted taxpayers` money, anti-corruption group Transparency International alleged on Monday.
The state spent more than Rs 12 crore between March 1, 2005 and June 10, 2011 in hiring helicopters or chartered flights for its ministers and the chief minister, Biswajit Mohanty, a board member of the India unit of the group, told a news agency.
Citing information he obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) act, Mohanty said during the period, a total of 154 trips were made by hired helicopters and chartered aircraft by the chief minister and other ministers.
While Naveen Patnaik made 59 trips with Rs 169 lakh as the total expenditure, the cost incurred for other ministers was Rs 394.42 lakh, he said.
Under the Orissa Ministers Travelling Allowance Rules, 1954, an aircraft or helicopter can be hired only in emergencies.
However, many places for which helicopters were hired are within 150 km of the state capital, a mere two-hour journey by car, he said.
Only three trips by hired helicopters are justifiable, since they were undertaken to carry out aerial survey of flood hit zones, Mohanty said.
Three flights to survey floods cost Rs 4.5 lakh out of the total expenditure of about Rs 808 lakh during the three year period from June 11, 2008 to June 20, 2011, he said.
The chief minister also hired a private chartered aircraft to visit Delhi for two days in 2010, which cost the state exchequer Rs 12.02 lakh.
Everyday, there are four commercial flights to Delhi from Bhubaneswar airport. Had he gone by a commercial flight, the cost would have been less than Rs 15,000 for a two-way ticket, Mohanty said.
A senior official of the state general administration department declined to comment on the issue.