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No takers for seaplane service, Rs 17.5 crore spent so far: Gujarat govt tells assembly

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NewsDrum Desk
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Gandhinagar, Feb 13 (PTI) The Gujarat government on Tuesday said no agency had shown interest in restarting the seaplane service between Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and the Statute of Unity in Narmada district though a tender was issued for it in May last year.

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Responding to questions by Congress MLAs during Question Hour of the legislative assembly, state Civil Aviation Minister Balvantsinh Rajput said as of December 2023, the state government has spent Rs 17.5 crore for the now defunct service.

Notably, the seaplane service was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2020 and was discontinued in April 2021.

The prime minister had launched the service by boarding a twin-engine plane from a pond close to the Statue of Unity and landed at Sabarmati Riverfront.

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Rajput informed the House that the service was operational for 80 days, and nearly 2,100 persons travelled between the two iconic destinations in the seaplane.

Though the state government had floated a tender in May 2023 to restart the service, no agency had shown interest in the tendering process, the minister said in reply to Congress MLA Dinesh Thakor's query on the government's plans to restart the service.

He, however, said that such services will be launched in future for four destinations, including the Statue of Unity, Sabarmati Riverfront, Dharoi Dam in north Gujarat and Shetrunjay Dam in Saurashtra.

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Cornering the BJP government over the issue, Congress MLA Tushar Chaudhary claimed the plane in which the prime minister travelled was nearly 50 years old, and it remained in service only for two months and was sent to the Maldives after it developed a snag.

He asked Rajput to ensure that aircraft deployed in future are technically fit.

Citing the death of former Gujarat Chief Minister Balwantrai Mehta, senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said PM Modi should not have travelled in such an old aircraft.

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The prime minister should not have taken the life-threatening risk of boarding a 50-year-old aircraft, senior Congress MLA Shailesh Parmar said.

During the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, Mehta's aircraft was shot down by a fighter jet of the enemy nation in Kutch, killing Mehta, his wife, three members of his staff, a journalist and two crew members.

To the remarks made by the Congress legislators, the minister said PM Modi is brave and he would "sit anywhere in the interest of the people whenever needed".

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Taking a strong exception to Congress' charge that the plane was 50 years old, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi said a plane's age is determined by the hours it flew, not merely by the year it was manufactured.

Speaker Shankar Chaudhary then told the treasury benches that Modhwadia was just showing concern for the prime minister.

Rajput also assured the House that the seaplanes inducted in future will be in good shape. PTI PJT PD ARU

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