New Delhi: Government is considering a proposal to provide subsidy to private airlines operating flights on loss-making routes in the north eastern region.
Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) came out with the proposal after a few private airlines, including Jet Airways, sought government clearance to scale down their flights to the region to stem operating losses.
If the proposal is approved, private airlines may get a subsidy of Rs 35 crore annually for operating flights to the routes in the north eastern states, which are economically unviable but socially important, officials said.
DoNER Ministry has been providing Alliance Air, an Air India subsidiary, an annual subsidy of Rs 35 crore for operating flights in the region but as services of the airline were not found "satisfactory", government was rethinking on continuing the assistance.
"We are considering giving the subsidy to those private airlines which operate flights to non-commercial destinations in the region. We will talk to Civil Aviation Ministry before taking a final decision," DoNER Minister Pawan Singh Ghatowar told reporters while briefing on the outcome of 61st plenary meeting of the North East Council on Wednesday.
After posting a loss of Rs 298 crore in the last quarter, Jet Airways sought government clearance to scale down operations to the north eastern region by about half.
Operations in the north east are guided by the government`s Route Dispersal Guidelines (RDG) which entail that all Indian carriers fly to the north east and other remote parts of the country, more so as a social obligation.
Demanding better connectivity, DoNER and NEC have been urging Civil Aviation Ministry to review RGDs as air connectivity has remained neglected in these far-flung areas inspite of them.
According to the guidelines, domestic airlines are required to fly at least 10 per cent of their deployed capacity on metro routes to the north east, Jammu and islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep.
In the recent NEC meeting, a number of chief ministers and governors of the northeastern states sought better connectivity to the region, saying improving road, rail and air links to the area would help boost economic growth.
They also expressed concern over slow progress of a number of key infrastructure projects and decided to meet the Prime Minister soon to apprise him about their views.
In 2010, government had announced an ambitious project for linking all capital cities in the northeastern states with railway network at an estimated investment of Rs 17,000 crore by 2016.
But, Ghatowar said, most of the railway projects are running behind schedule.
"The law and order situation has improved to a great extent. So, we think the pace of work should go up," he said.
Resolving to encourage the tourism sector, Ghatowar said the NEC meeting decided to develop eight tourist circuits, one each in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura in a time-bound manner.
"We will spend Rs 30 crore initially to prepare the detailed project report," he said.
Ghatowar said no headway has been made on the proposal to construct an alternative highway to Imphal through Jiribam.
Construction of an alternative road was envisaged last year after life in Manipur was crippled for almost four months following economic blockade of NH 39 by Naga groups. The NH 39, which goes through Nagaland, is lifeline for Manipur.