Odia media house OdishaTV has alleged that their senior journalist Ramesh Rath has been detained by police for a report regarding CM Naveen Patnaik’s air survey of flood in the state. The media house reported today that Rath was allegedly picked by police from near his residence in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.
According to OTV, four to five persons, who identified themselves as police, forcibly picked up Rath and took him to an undisclosed location. Rath’s phone was immediately confiscated and he was not allowed to make a call to his family too, the report stated. It says that the exact reason why Ramesh Rath was picked by police is not known.
Reacting to the report, BJP leader Baijayant Jay Panda asked whether The Editors Guild of India will condemn this, or if the many legendary champions of Freedom of Speech in India will protest or return their awards.
The development took place a day after OTV had aired a report questioning the aerial survey of the flood-hit areas by the CM. Based on replies to an RTI query, the media house had claimed that the official records of helicopter operations does not support the claim that CM had conducted the aerial survey.
CM Naveen Patnaik had conducted an aerial survey of the flood-hit districts in the state on 31st August, and had announced financial assistant to the affected families. However, RTI replies accessed by OTV had shown that only one helicopter of OSS Air Management had taken off from the Bhubaneswar Airport at 10:12 AM on August 31 and returned at 10:31 AM. “The chopper took off and returned to the airport in 19 minutes which included a flight time of only nine and a half minutes,” the report by OTV had claimed.
The report had said that flood affected Jaipur is 45 nautical miles from Bhubaneswar, which means the return journey is 90 nautical miles. The VTOSH chopper in which Odisha CM flew has a maximum speed of 168 knots and to cover 90 nautical miles in 19 minutes, a craft needs to have a maximum speed of 270 knots
They had also mentioned that there was no VVIP movement on that particular day, as per the response to the RTI query. Based on these observations, OTV had raised question on the aerial survey done by the CM.
OTV report refuted by AAI
However, the OTV’s claims were rejected by the Airport Authority of India (AAI), saying the CM indeed conducted the aerial survey on that day. The AAI wrote a letter to Joint Secretary to Odisha Chief Minister giving detailed clarification regarding the Chief Minister’s air travel.
AAI said that contrary to the claim by OTV, 19 minutes was the actual flying time, and it didn’t include warm-up time, startup time at apron and taxi time to runway and return to apron after landing. It also said that as per SOP for the handling of VVIP flights, VVIP means the President, Vice President, Prime Minister of India and Foreign Heads of state/Govt. Chief ministers are not classified as VVIPs, and therefore Naveen Patnaik’s aerial survey was not categorised as VVIP travel, AAI said.
A report by the Newsroom said that the helicopter used by CM is a high quality, twin-engine helicopter, and such types of helicopters will take only 5 to 6 minutes of air time to reach the severely flood affected areas from Bhubaneswar. The report also stated that videos and photographs of the CM’s aerial survey were released to the media on that day itself.