Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Would pooling in of 5 aircrafts from Civil Aviation Ministry improve intra-region air connectivity in the North East?

In a landlocked region where air connectivity is very poor as compared to rest of the country and where there is almost virtually no intra-region air connectivity so far, it is a welcome gesture from DoNER ministry to ask Union Ministry of Civil Aviation to pool in five aircrafts to provide intra-regional air connectivity in the North Eastern States to connect all the state capitals and the major towns in the region under new scheme 'North East Airlines Services'.

DoNER Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar had written a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel requesting him to extend the services of Alliance Air to connect all the state capitals and major towns in the region under a new scheme - 'North East Airlines Service'.
This service is proposed to be run in 'Hub and Spoke' model with hubs at Guwahati for Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim and Agartala for Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.

Now as mentioned earlier, it is a welcome gesture by DoNER ministry; but would pooling of 5 aircrafts from Ministry of Civil Aviation indeed improve intra-region air connectivity? Well, I'm afraid so.


Consider this.

The northeastern region currently has 23 airports, out of which as many as 12 are non-operational. These include airports at Along, Daporijo, Kailashahar, Kamalpur, Khowai, Pasighat, Rupsi, Tezu, Tura, Turial, Ziro and Shella.

Also, all the 11 operational airports at Agartala, Aizwal, Dibrugarh, Dimapur, Guwahati, Imphal, Jorhat,Lilabari, Shillong, Silchar and Tezpur incur annual losses worth Rs 61 crore in terms of expenditure incurred on them and the revenue generated.

With only 11 operational airports, the need of the hour is to make these 12 non-operational airports operational, if at all the state capitals and major towns of the North-Eastern states are proposed to be connected by air.

Under 'Vision 2020 for North East'- an ambitious plan of union government to remove isolation of NE Region by improving connectivity and infrastructural development; the government has though, undertaken to upgrade 10 airports in the region with an investment of INR 50 million and has also undertaken to upgrade non-operational airport during the 11th plan.

So, until and unless the operational and non-operational airports upgraded and proposed greenfield airports completed, it has to be seen how pooling in of additional aircrafts would have effect in improving intra-regional air connectivity of the North-Eastern region. However, it may help people from the region traveling to other sectors if these additional aircrafts are used for routes in other sectors.


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