Both the groups enjoy the support of CPM bigwigs. While Pailan chief Apurva Saha is close to state Transport Minister Subhash Chakrabarty, Camellia has Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee as the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of one of its institutes — the Bengal Institute of Technology and Management.
While the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had leased Hangar 2 (H2) to Camellia Group, there is a dispute between the Pailan and Camellia groups over Hangar 1 (H1).
The story dates back to 1963, when in an agreement with the Civil Aviation department, the AAI had leased out H1 to the state Transport department for Re 1. No time period was specified in the agreement. This year, the state government decided to sub-lease HI, and after a tender was floated, it was offered to Pailan Group. In a letter dated January 5, 2007, the state Transport department informed the Pailan Group that it had emerged as the highest bidder and it should seek the necessary clearances from the AAI and the director general of civil aviation for starting operations.
Even after so many months, Pailan Group is still awaiting the mandatory clearance from the AAI. It was learnt that the AAI did not kindly take to the state Government sub-leasing HI.
According to AAI sources, the state Government had not consulted it before floating the tender for BFTI. To complicate matters further, the original record of the old agreement between the West Bengal Government and the Civil Aviation ministry is untraceable.
During this period, AAI let out H2 to Camellia Group for a one-year period, which comes to an end this December. And even as the Camellia Group began its courses in H2 and the Pailan Group insisted that it had been leased out H1 by the state Government, in an advertisement published in a leading daily on March 16 this year, the AAI once again invited a tender for setting up a flying training institute.
Now, Pailan Group has appealed to the Calcutta High Court to ensure that the BFTI deal is a transparent one, and also look into the reasons for Pailan being refused AAI clearance even though it had been sub-leased H1 by the state government. It was learnt that the High Court has already directed the AAI to submit an affidavit in this regard.
When contacted, AAI Executive Director S S Bakshi said, “Only our clearance won’t do, there are other clearances also to be sought.”
Meanwhile, both the groups are ready with their aircraft. Camellia Group has already began its courses with the first batch of 25 students for ground operations and technical training having enrolled in June this year. On the other hand Pailan Group also claims to be ready with one Cessna aircraft and another helicopter for its flying training operations.