At a recent event, the Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha said that the government would open 92 new routes in the Northeast as part of an initiative to improve air connectivity in the region.
This initiative, Sinha said, makes up the second round of the government’s ‘Udaan’ scheme, which seeks to provide connectivity to remote areas and improve access in under-served regions.
In the first round of the scheme, 30 new airports came up in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Sinha announced that Air India will conduct a direct bi-weekly flight from Delhi to Imphal from the beginning of next year with plans to make it a daily affair once the demand for this route picks up.
There was also news of Spicejet buying seaplanes that would carry 10 passengers to smaller airstrips.
Bidding for the second round began in August with the government receiving “141 initial proposals for operating flight and helicopter services on 502 routes, connecting 126 airports and helipads,” reported the Press Trust of India.
“Nineteen new airports and seven heliports that are going to be added to the aviation network. There are 26 new airports (that are going to be) added through Udaan round 2. The bidding processes are underway,” Sinha added.
The Northeast often suffers from inadequate connectivity within the region and to mainland India. In the recent past, there have been definitive attempts to enhance the state of road, rail and aviation infrastructure.
Although better rail and road networks are critical for the transport of people and goods, the hilly terrain across vast swathes of the region makes air travel an absolute necessity.
Besides demands of the local economy, especially in the tourism sector, air travel also becomes critical because the region lies in an active seismic active zone.
The area is also prone to natural disasters, and in the event of such calamities, road and rail networks cannot hold.
Better transport connectivity in the Northeast will also go some way in improving the outcome of the Indian government’s ‘Act East’ policy, which seeks to enhance trade ties between the region and South-East Asian economies.