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Better air connectivity on DoNER radar

Shillong, June 3: One of the immediate challenges faced by new DoNER minister Gen. (retd) Vijay Kumar Singh is to ensure that the Centre gives adequate attention to states in the region which are not well connected with other parts of the country via air.
A case in point is the termination of services of Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, on the Shillong-Calcutta-Shillong sector.
Since June 1, Alliance Air had stopped flights to Umroi airport from Calcutta.
Various leaders had run the DoNER ministry, but bottlenecks in providing air connectivity to some of the states of the region still persist.
The NDA government, under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, created the DoNER ministry in September 2001.
Sources today said Air India was yet to give its views on a proposal to restart the services in the sector.
Another source said following termination of the services, the affected passengers were either given tickets to fly to Calcutta from Guwahati airport or were allowed to get a refund.
The North Eastern Council (NEC) had last week requested Alliance Air to continue the Shillong-Calcutta-Shillong flight service from the Umroi airport until October and assured that necessary viability gap funding would be provided.
At the same time, the council had asked Seven Sisters Alliance to provide air connectivity to Umroi airport from Calcutta and the airports at Tezpur, Lilabari and Dimapur from Guwahati.
However, in the initial stages, sources said that Seven Sisters Alliance would be operating smaller aircraft to provide connectivity within the region only. The services would commence within the next few days, sources said.
The sources added that NEC officials are likely to meet Singh in the coming days in New Delhi to apprise him of various issues confronting the region, including air connectivity.
The council had sought details from Alliance Air for making payment for the services it had rendered between Umroi airport and Calcutta. The services commenced from July 10, 2013.
Alliance Air was also requested to continue the services until the end of the summer schedule (October 25, 2014), for which the council would provide the necessary viability gap funding.
The NEC had provided viability gap funding to Alliance Air since the Tenth Five Year Plan period, initially from January 1, 2003, to December 31, 2007, at an estimated cost of Rs 175 crore, and further extended it until December 31, 2011.
Alliance Air continued its services to the region even after the expiry of the MoU signed with NEC beyond December 31, 2012, at its own cost without a valid memorandum of understanding.
Moreover, Alliance Air discontinued the service from January 1, 2013, but the Centre and the ministry of civil aviation decided that the service from Umroi airport to Calcutta should be resumed.
It was also agreed that the NEC, based on cost-minus-revenue formula, would pay the viability gap funding for this service. The service was then resumed from July 10, 2013.