'Mr Mayor, we already have helipads for disaster situations'

Sunil Prabhu demanded at least 3 helipads from the CM for disaster situations; corporators say he is ill-informed as there are 40 bus depots that are supposed to serve the very purpose.

Floating an idea is alright if you have the right one. Otherwise you risk flying into a controversy. Just like Sunil Prabhu, the mayor of Mumbai. The recently appointed first citizen is facing flak from several quarters for his newfound passion -- helipads in the city.

Prabhu asked for three of them in a recent meeting with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The demand -- part of a memorandum of 26 -- was ostensibly made by the mayor to aid disaster management situations. Prabhu claimed the CM has agreed in principle to his requests. 

Man with a plan: The request for helipads was part of a memorandum
of 26 demands, which the mayor put before the chief minister. Prabhu
claimed the CM has agreed in principle to his requests. File pic

"The city needs at least three helipads -- one each for the island city, and eastern and western suburbs -- so that rescue teams can reach a designated spot at the earliest should a contingency arise," said Prabhu.

'Soar' point
"First we need permission to set up helipads. BMC has a Rs 26,000-crore annual budget, so it's not very difficult for the corporation to buy a helicopter," the mayor told MiD DAY. However, a senior civic official said the city doesn't need any more helipads as Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) can use BEST depots for the purpose in case of an emergency. "The BEST undertaking is the sister concern organisation of BMC, and it has at least 40 depots in the city, which can be readily used as helipads. Each of the depots is quite spacious and can manage at least one helicopter at a time," said the official on condition of anonymity.

"Either the mayor doesn't have enough knowledge about the civic disaster management plan, or he is planning to buy a chopper in the name of disaster management and has a hidden agenda," said Praveen Chheda, a senior corporator from Congress. The mayor, however, said, "As of now, we have no plans to procure a helicopter."

"There is no need to set up helipads and my party will strongly oppose this move," said Dilip Lande, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader from BMC. He too alleged that there could be some ulterior motive behind this. "It would be wastage of public money. The ruling party should spend more on improving water, meter and gutter services rather than on helipads. Our BEST depots are sufficient to take care of the situation," added Lande.

BEST bet
As per disaster management plan, number of depots which can be used as helipads in emergency situations are:
Island city: 4
Eastern suburbs: 4
Western suburbs: 9
There are approximately 40  BEST depots in the city

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