By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 21 Aug: Relief operations for the cloudburst calamity in some villages of Mori block in Uttarkashi district suffered a major jolt when a helicopter, while returning after dropping relief material in the disaster-hit area, crashed in village Moldi of the same block this afternoon. All the three persons aboard the helicopter died on the spot. The accident occurred when the helicopter collided with electric wires in Moldi village. Pilot Captain Ranjiv Lal, co-pilot Shailesh and a local villager, Rajpal, were aboard. After receiving information about the incident, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat expressed grief over the incident in a tweet. At the same time, he also prayed for peace to the departed souls and for the bereaved families to have the strength to bear the loss. The government also announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs 15 lakhs, each, to the families of the victims of this accident. On the directions of the CM, all relief operations by air have been stopped on an interim basis. According to information received from the Chamoli police, the accident occurred at 12:11 p.m. The helicopter got entangled in the electric wires and crashed. The helicopter belonged to a private aviation company, M/s Heritage Aviations Pvt Ltd. Another helicopter with rescue teams was also dispatched from Arakot for rescue operations. Uttarkashi district administration teams have also been sent to the spot. In addition, a team of the SDRF has also been sent to the spot as the crash occurred at a site that is difficult to access. After the helicopter crash, CM Trivendra visited the disaster control room in Dehradun. Along with this, he announced a compensation of Rs 15 lakhs each to the families of those killed in the accident. Initially, even after getting information immediately after the accident, for some time it could not be ascertained where the accident had happened till the smoke coming out of the crashed chopper was seen by the people. Several questions about the accident have arisen following the crash. Questions have been raised in the past as well regarding the safety and appropriateness in using single engine helicopters in the higher mountains. It may be recalled that even during the election campaign many VVIP leaders refused to ride single engine helicopters for campaigning in the hills. Several experts have recommended that the use of single engine helicopters in high mountains should be limited. Apart from this, the heli-companies operating during the Char Dham Yatra in the mountains have also been observed to be violating safety norms in order to maximise profits, but the state civil aviation department has been reluctant to take action against them. Although this particular accident occurred due to the chopper getting entangled in electric wires, the question arises whether the helicopter was flying deliberately low in violation of DGCA norms.This needs to be investigated in depth and dealt with strictly so that such accidents can be minimised to the maximum possible level.