Helicopter companies use state helipad for Amarnath yatra, pay royalty to SASB

SRINAGAR: Three private helicopter companies, ferrying Amarnath yatris to the Hindu cave shrine, are using the state helipad without paying anything towards the public exchequer while the companies are paying a royalty towards Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).
The SASB has allowed Himalayan Heli Services Private Limited to ferry pilgrims from Pahalgam to Panjtarni while Global Vectra Helicorp Limited and Pawan Hans Limited is ferrying the pilgrims on Neelgrat-Pantarni route.
One of the administrators of Himalyan Heli services at Pahalgam, Ajay Singh said that around 450-500 yatris avail the chopper services daily with each person charged Rs 8500 for the trip.
As many as 100 sorties are made daily by the three helicopters from Pahalgam to Panjtarni subject to fair weather, he said.
Interestingly, the chopper companies operate in the jurisdiction of Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) and utilize its helipad without paying anything in return.  Instead the companies pay a certain amount of royalty towards the SASB.
“I am not certain about the figures but these chopper companies pay a certain royalty towards us. They are private owned companies and we have to charge them some amount,” said a senior official of the SASB.
PDA Chief Executive Officer, Riyaz Ahmad Wani said the state does not charge the helicopter companies.
“Helipad is a tourist facility and we are providing it free of cost to these   companies,” Wani told Kashmir Reader.
The Auqaf as well as the locals have been demanding the services to be stopped owing to the noise it creates in the surrounding areas.
The students of the adjoining schools have complained of distraction during studies because of the noise.
However, the government is setting up a new helipad for facilitating smooth movement of choppers from Pahalgam to Panjtarini during the yatra period.
SASB CEO Pradip Kumar Tripathi and Additional CEO Jitendra Kumar Singh were not available for their comments.