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The Odisha government Friday said it has started the process to bring back the iconic Dakota aircraft of former chief minister Biju Patnaik, lying at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (NSCB) International Airport in Kolkata, to Bhubaneswar. Biju Patnaik, who was an ace pilot, had flown the Dakota to Java with his wife Gyan Patnaik, also a pilot, to rescue Sultan Sjahrir, the erstwhile prime minister of Indonesia from a jungle hideout in 1947.

The operation was carried out on the instructions of the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who viewed the freedom struggle of Indonesia from the Dutch colonial powers as parallel to that of India, history research scholar Anil Dhir said.

A grateful Indonesia had twice decorated Biju Patnaik with its highest civilian honour Bhumiputra for his bravery.

Keeping in mind the demand from people across the state to bring back the aeroplane, Odishas Commerce and Transport Minister Padmanabha Behera said the public works department (PWD) had floated a tender for the transportation of the Dakota.

A Kolkata-based company was given the contract for shifting the aircraft to Bhubaneswar. The company was allowed to bring the dismantled aircraft to Bhubaneswar by road and reassemble it in the airport premises here, sources said.

Pointing out that the Dakota will be back in Bhubaneswar soon, the minister said that the state government has already written a letter to the Centre seeking permission for the aircraft to be displayed near Biju Patnaiks statue at the International Airport here.

Kalinga Airlines, formed by Biju Patnaik, had as many as 18 Dakota VT-AVI aircraft. Twelve of them have been completely damaged.

One is at Kolkata airport, another at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai and the third is in Indonesia.

There is no information about the remaining three aircraft, an official at the commerce and transport department said.

The state government had last year written a letter to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) following which approval was received that the Dakota in Kolkata airport will be shifted to Odisha. AAM MM MM

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