FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
SILCHAR, June 19: The decision of the Central Government to give effect to a new civil aviation policy which among others includes regiol connectivity to smaller cities at a fare of Rs.2500 per hour and low baggage fee. Airlines can charge only Rs.100 a kg for baggage in excess of Rs.15 kg and upto 20 kg. Along with that has come two other decisions to have more airports in interior areas and that highways are to be used as runways for connectivity in far-flung areas of the country. This is no doubt a positive move and has been hailed by the air passengers.
Along with that certain basic questions arise in the context of Barak Valley which is a landlocked region. During monsoon in particular, road and highways become undependable. To travel through tiol Highway 6 has become a nightmarish experiences with frequent fatal bus mishaps at Sopur –Tongseng zone. Train services too are affected as it has happened now. For more than one month, the train services on the newly laid BG track between Silchar and Lumding have remained suspended. The worst sufferers are the people of Barak Valley who have no other altertive to move out. The only access open is air services.
But, the high cost of fare cannot be afforded by the people willing to go outside. Even the ‘open air policy’ of the Centre has not benefited this valley. No low fare airlines like Spice Jet or IndiGo has made any schedule of services for this airport. Long ago, Kingfisher did enter the area, but it was short-lived. The woes of passengers know no bound. On the ground of improvement of runway, all the afternoon air services have remained suspended from March 27. There is no certainty when the afternoon services will resume
Moreover, the air connectivity from Silchar, better known as Kumbhirgram airport, is limited to Kolkata and Guwahati only. Earlier, this airport was connected to Aizawl, Imphal, Jorhat and Agartala. People still recall the services of Vayudoot and Fokker Friendship operated by Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Indian Airlines. It is really a paradox that Silchar Airport which is ranked 4th in north east in terms of traffic density continues to be neglected. As pointed out earlier, the nearest airports from here, Aizawl, Imphal and Agartala have direct flights to New Delhi. In addition, round the year discounts on the tickets of all the airlines are available from these airports.
Apart from all the handicaps, despite all the arrangements and facilities being made for night landing facility from Silchar, Indian Air Force which controls this airport has yet to clear it. It is to be recalled that the night landing facility has been created here 5 years ago. This has raised high expectations among the people of this valley that the frequency of flights will increase. But, it was not to be. The new aviation policy has nothing to cheer about at least for the people of this Barak Valley who have learnt to live and survive in adversities.