Chopper service in tribal areas in HP could become poll issue

| | Shimla
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Chopper service in tribal areas in HP could become poll issue

Friday, 15 March 2019 | PNS | Shimla

The airlifting of people from snow-bound tribal areas of Himachal Pradesh could become an poll issue as the Congress has written to the state chief electoral officer, alleging that BJP leaders were interfering in the process to influence voters.

The BJP termed the allegation baseless, saying it was levelled by the Congress out of frustration on foreseeing its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress alleged that people close to local BJP leaders were being airlifted on a priority basis as they were using their influence with the administration and police to benefit in the elections.

In a fax to the Himachal CEO Wednesday, state Congress general secretary Ravi Thakur requested the (EC) to monitor the chopper services being run by the state for airlifting patients, students and other emergency passengers from snowbound tribal areas of Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts.

The former Lahaul-Spiti MLA alleged that the BJP leaders are interfering through administration and police in plying of choppers and setting priorities to influence voters in the Lok Sabha elections.

He demanded that the plying of helicopters in all tribal areas and passengers priority be monitored by the EC.

Thakur sought the deployment of CAPFs at all the helipads in tribal areas to ensure unbiased functioning, alleging the BJP leaders set priority of passengers through the administration and the police.

State CEO Devesh Kumar could not be contacted, despite repeated calls and messages.

When contacted, Agriculture and Tribal Development Minister Ram Lal Markanda termed the allegations baseless. He claimed the Congress was acting out of frustration on foreseeing its defeat, he added.

Markanda, who is a BJP MLA from Lahaul-Spiti, said, "The passengers are sent on priority basis by the district administration and the BJP leaders are playing no role in it as the Model Code of Conduct is already in force."

The Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts, and Pangi, Bharmour areas of Chamba district, falling under Mandi parliamentary seat, remain cut off during winters, usually from November 15 to April 20, Thakur added.

The Rohtang Pass, located at the height of about 13,050 feet, and Kunzum Pass, located at about 15,060 feet, remain closed several feet of snow.

Helicopters are used for patients and other emergency passengers in tribal areas where there are around 22 helipads.

Over 1,600 people have requested the administration to be airlifted from tribal areas as most parts are still covered with four to 12 feet snow, he added.

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