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Terminal neglect

23 Sep. 2014 1:29 AM IST

Dimapur airport, the only air link between Nagaland and mainland India, suffers because of the apathetic attitude from two very powerful agencies of the union civil aviation ministry- the Airports Authority of India(AAI) and Air India. This newspaper has been highlighting the manner in which the authorities have been consistently reducing flight frequencies through the years as if to indicate that the airlines is almost going to wind up its operations in Nagaland. Past MPs from the state had taken up the matter with the government of India but during the past decade, too little was done except merely airing concerns. Dimapur airport became operational for civilian planes sometime in the early 70s and since then, it has been functioning with only marginal improvement in airport terminal facilities and introduction of wide bodied aircraft. More people are travelling by plane in all parts of the country and those in Nagaland are no exception. Therefore, when the volume of air passengers from Dimapur is also increasing, it is strange that Air India( erstwhile Indian Airlines) has acted contrary by decreasing flight frequencies. Earlier, the Air India(erstwhile Indian Airlines) operated three to four flights between Delhi to Dimapur via Guwahati and the remaining were non-stop fliths between Kolkata to Dimapur.This arrangement suited passengers and business persons from Dimapur and Guwahati who shuttled between Dimapur and Guwahati. The previous arrangement facilitated passengers from Dimapur in catching their flights from Guwahati to other destinations. Currently, flight frequencies from Dimapur have been reduced to five days a week and that too with stop overs at Dibrugarh. Flights from Kolkata to Dimapur on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday stop over at Dibrugarh to pick up around 15 to 20 passengers before landing at Dimapur to pick up around 100 passengers. There were times, when owing to Sunset Timing flight restrictions, authorities preferred to fly to Dibrugarh without landing at Dimapur. On Sunday and Wednesday, flights from Kolkata to Dimapur are non-stop but on return, stop over at Dibrugarh to pick up passengers. The rationality of Air India in this regard is questionable and can be translated as bias against Dimapur. While Dimapur is served only by Air India which does not offer fair discounts, Dibrugarh has other private airlines that offer multiple options and even fare discounts. Imphal and Aizawl have daily flight operated either by Air India, Jet Konnect, Jet Airways and Indigo airlines connecting Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Thus, when airports in other states are experiencing improvement of additional flights including operation by private airlines, Dimapur appears to be slowly becoming extinct from the airlines map. Instead of bringing people closer, the airlines has only pushed Dimapur farther away from the mainstream. The potential for growth of this sector appears to have been nipped due to the ‘foresight’ of those at influential positions who probably want to down grade Dimapur to the lowest level. The rationale behind the civil aviation ministry’s actions are detrimental to economic growth of the state and it could eventually end up having an airport served by small twin-engine aircraft to ferry passengers to Guwahati or worse. The government of Nagaland should not think of other airports before it ensures that Dimapur receives its due; after all, Dimapur passengers are not flying on credit but are paying more for less.

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