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Omar avoids flight, visits Jammu, Samba Print E-mail

Jammu, Aug 17: Stung by the RTI disclosure on huge expenses on his chopper maintenance, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Wednesday preferred to visit Jammu and Samba districts by road. Omar along with other cabinet ministers and senior administrative functionaries drove to various parts of Samba and Jammu districts to get first hand appraisal of damages caused to public and private infrastructure by the torrential rains last week.
Omar while obliquely referring to the RTI disclosure wrote on mirco-blogging site Twitter: “And since some of you asked, no I didn't fly I drove.”
Greater Kashmir was the first to report on August 9 on the huge expense incurred on the helicopter sorties availed by the state’s VVIPs, including the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues.
Omar’s comment also received some interesting feedback from his followers. One of his 43,518 followers tweeted: “You said it, I didn't. Along with 40 other cars at least....flying is cheaper sir.”
Another follower wrote: “Next question CM: Did you pay for your own gasoline? Show us the credit card receipt. This is a never-ending business.” An RTI reply showed that the Chief Minister’s sorties cost the state Rs 11 crore in two years. Out of the 490 odd sorties, more than 40 have been carried to picnic spots across Kashmir. Rs 11 crore spent from July 2009 to June 2011 and another Rs 54 lakhs on refreshments.
The state government however clarified that its helicopters were used by top functionaries of the state including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as these had proved to be very important tools in better governance.
“Choppers are important tools of effective and efficient governance where the Chief Minister and other Ministers can attend to their office work and be with people in various far flung areas in the shortest possible time,” an official spokesman had said.
The spokesman had said it must be appreciated that helicopter travel is a matter of necessity in a state like Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises of rugged, inhospitable and hazardous terrain spread over a large area.
The RTI was filed by 35-year-old Bashir Ahmad Malik, a Below Poverty Line (BPL) Kashmir resident, who decided to hold the state Chief Minister accountable. Malik is illiterate and lives in the backward area of Khag in Budgam.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 20 September 2011 )
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