Modi’s massive push to connect remote and strategic locations: Big ramp-up in air links to North East, J&K

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New Delhi | Updated: November 16, 2017 8:37:51 AM

With an aim to boost air connectivity to North-East and Jammu and Kashmir, the central government is taking an important measure. It has already identified 24 airports and helipads in northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir

Regional Connectivity Scheme, narendra modi, pm modi, jammu and kashmir flights, jammu flight, kashmir flight, srinagar flight, north east flight, AAI, jammu airportWith an aim to boost air connectivity to North-East and Jammu and Kashmir, the central government is taking an important measure. It has already identified 24 airports and helipads in northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. (Representative image by Reuters)

With an aim to boost air connectivity to North-East and Jammu and Kashmir, the central government is taking an important measure. It has already identified 24 airports and helipads in northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, according to Indian Express report. This is part of the second phase of the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) of the Centre. Out of the 24 airports and helipads, nine are in Arunachal Pradesh, five each in Assam and Manipur, two in Jammu and Kashmir and one each in Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim. Ministry of Civil Aviation has detected these airports and helipads. Nine airports and helipads in Arunachal Pradesh are startegically important as the state borders China.

It has been learnt that window for air operators to bid had started on August 24. This was four days before Indian and Chinese troops disengaged at Doklam to end a border standoff that lasted more than two months. When the list of routes in the first phase of the scheme was announced in March, only six airports in the North-East — Shillong, Dimapur, Imphal, Silchar, Aizawl and Agartala — were connected. Notably, the first round did not involve routes to Jammu and Kashmir.

Several airports identified under the RCS are currently being used by the Indian Air Force. These include Daporijo, Yinghong, Ziro, Pasighat, Along, Tuting and Walong in Arunachal Pradesh, and Kishtwar and Kargil in Jammu & Kashmir. The aerodromes at Tezpur, Jorhat and Lilabari in Assam are also operated by the IAF, but will have separate civilian enclaves under the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Apart from this, the AAI is also undertaking development and expansion of a number of airports in the North-East such as setting up of the first airport in Sikkim at Pakyong at an estimated cost of Rs 553.53 crore. The Pakyong airport is expected to be operational this month. The Tezu airport in Arunachal Pradesh has also been upgraded by the AAI with a renovated terminal building at a cost of Rs 96.50 crore.

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On March 30, it was decided that five airlines will operate on 128 routes under the regional connectivity scheme wherein fares are capped at Rs 2,500 for one-hour flights. Over 45 unserved and under-served airports would be connected under the scheme — UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) that seeks to make flying more affordable. Announcing the names of winning bidders and the routes, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey Thursday said 128 routes are being awarded to a total of five operators. The operators are Air India subsidiary Airline Allied Services, SpiceJet, Air Deccan, Air Odisha and Turbo Megha.

They would be operating 19-78 seater aircraft. The airports that would be connected under UDAN include Bhatinda, Puducherry and Shimla. On each flight, 50 per cent of the seats would have a cap of Rs 2,500 per seat/hour, Choubey had said. Under UDAN, the operators would be extended viability gap funding. The amount is estimated to be around Rs 205 crore per annum for the operators chosen in the first round of bidding, Choubey added. Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said the scheme provides for various benefits including no airport charges and three-year exclusivity on the routes.

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