New Delhi: A 42-seater ATR aircraft landing may not attract much attention in most parts of the world but when the Alliance Airlines plane touched down at Pasighat, it was a historic moment for Arunachal Pradesh. Cut-off of sorts from the rest of the country due to scarce air connectivity, Monday's flight signalled the arrival of regular commercial flight operations - bringing the state and its people closer to the rest of the country.
The aircraft, belonging to Alliance Airlines - a subsidiary of Air India, took off from Guwahati's Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport and completed an epic 1.5-hour journey to land at the Pasighat airport at around 1415 hours. It was epic because on board were not just Arunachal CM Pema Khandu, Deputy CM Chowna Mein, Assembly Speaker TN Thongdok and other cabinet ministers and legislators, but also dreams, hopes and aspirations of people of an entire state. "Today is a historic day and I congratulate the people of Arunachal in general and people of Pasighat in particular for this new milestone that would remain engraved in history as a huge step in the development of our state," Khandu told mediapersons. "With Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm and his concern in the sector of connectivity for the northeast has enabled us to fulfil a dream," he added.
PM Modi's government has indeed played a leading role in helping smaller centres of the country come onto the aviation map. Launched in 2017, the NDA government's UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) scheme has not just envisaged developing existing regional airports to make them bigger hubs but to also bring aviation to smaller towns across India and make it financially viable. Commercial flight to Pasighat, for example, would be thrice a week from Guwahati and while only Alliance Air would be operating initially, reports suggest Zoom Air and Turbo Jet too would have flight operations soon.
Beyond just fulfilling dreams of people in the state, commercial flight operations here, many say, is also a daring statement to China that Arunachal Pradesh is indeed an integral part of India and no suggestions or manoeuvring contrary to it would be agreeable. In the past, China has issued maps showing Arunachal as its territory, protested PM Modi's visit here, threatened others from doing the same - including US diplomats, denied visa to sportspersons from the state and even issue stapled visas to people at large.
While there are reports of rampant infrastructure development on the Chinese side, India too has ramped up development work and in Arunachal, has 120 helipads and 10 Advance Landing Ground (ALG) - Ziro, Pasighat, Aalo,Tuting, Mechuka, Vijaynagar, Walong, Tezu, Daporijo and Alinye. Whether commercial or military, better infrastructure in border states like Arunachal could work out to be in the advantage of people here and the country as a whole.