The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma is now in damage control mode in an attempt to restore peace and tranquillity, particularly in Shillong. The week long unrest in the state capital of Meghalaya is going to cost the state heavy, not only in terms of the exchequer in maintaining Law and Order, compensation to around 100 injured police personnel, not to mention the damage of public properties. Even the Mobile Service Providers have incurred huge loss as the internet services were shut for about 10 days now. All the loss is being estimated by the state government, which will also include the cost for two Flag Marches by the Army and the additional Central Forces for patrolling.
While Shillong is in the grip of violence, the Ministry of Civil Aviation is working out the modalities to promote Air connectivity to destinations with high tourism potential under a separate vertical of its UDAN regional connectivity scheme. Needless to mention, besides the infrastructure, the priority will definitely to study how peaceful and security of the state for the tourists.
According to the senior official with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, modalities will be worked out to provide air connectivity to “Iconic Tourist” destinations in the country under UDAN (‘Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik’), first-of-its-kind scheme globally to stimulate regional connectivity through a market-based mechanism.
The official also informed that the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation has decided to form a joint committee to study the modalities for UDAN like scheme to provide air connectivity to these locations. However, the new scheme’s parameters will be different from those used for RCS-UDAN and that such a vertical will be fully funded by the Ministry of Tourism.
On the international variant of UDAN, the official informed that the state government of Assam has set aside Rs 100 crore per annum for an initiative to promote air connectivity between Guwahati and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.
In the case of Meghalaya, just a couple of months back an Air Deccan aircraft landed at the Shillong Airport on a trial run from Agartala under the Centre’s UDAN scheme, 18-seater B190 aircraft landed at Umroi, 25 km from state capital on April 26 2018. The test flight went well and the Aviation authority concerned is satisfied with the facilities at the airport. The North Eastern Council too is keen to assist the state government to improve air connectivity in Meghalaya.
Both the airports in Meghalaya- Baljek Airport near Tura and Umroi Airport are not functional due to the viability-gap funding (VGF) and short runway, as the land acquisition for the expansion of the runway has been a prolonged battle. It is difficult to understand why the Meghalaya state government does not adopt the facilities like that of Siliguri Airport- Bagdogra, where the commercial flight are allowed to land in the Air force manned Airport, Umroi too by proximity is adjacent to Cantonment area and can easily function like the Bagdogra Airbase.
However, at present, more than political will to prepare the Detailed Project Report under the UDAN regional connectivity scheme, all the stakeholders in Meghalaya need to participate in restoring normalcy in the state capital, otherwise, like the railways lines, Meghalaya may lose the share of the scheme due to unrest.