The long wait for air-connectivity within the state, and some key towns including Shimla, Mandi and Kullu-Manali, is finally over with the Centre clearing low-cost air travel at a fixed cost of Rs 2,480 under UDAN-II for six places in the state. The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has picked Pawan Hans — an official carrier of Air India — to operate at least three flights in a week at chosen destinations. The flight will be between 30 minutes and one hour, at a fixed cost.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who was at Ani Thursday, said he had discussed the issue of air connectivity with Prime Minister on his first meeting with him after having taken over as Chief Minister. “The Prime Minister has given this gift on Statehood Day of Himachal Pradesh ,which will definitely boost tourism and air travel in the state. The UDAN scheme was also launched by him from Shimla early last year,” he said.
UDAN-II scheme of the Centre will connect 25 unreserved airports and 31 unreserved helipads. Under the scheme, helicopter services would be provided to the people from Kasauli to Shimla,Manali to Kullu,Mandi to Dharamshala, Kullu and Shimla, Nathpa Jhakri to Rampur, Rampur to Nathpa-Jhakri and Shimla and Shimla to Kasauli,Mandi and Rampur.
Meanwhile, three Cabinet ministers — Suresh Bhardwaj, Govind Thakur and Vipin Parmar — thanked the Prime Minister for the “gift of UDAN to the people of Himachal.” The Ministers said that Jai Ram Thakur when first called upon the Prime Minister after assuming the office of Chief Minister, he discussed the issue of air connectivity in the state to give special thrust of tourism development in the state.
They alleged that much hype was created by the previous Congress government over starting heli-skiing, which proved a “big failure”. They said the ministers of the previous Congress government used to comment that the state BJP leaders keep on urging the Prime Minister for providing some soup or a scheme to the people of the state, but the Prime Minister was not responding to their requests.
They said now these Congress leaders have got a befitting reply, as the Prime Minister has shown generosity towards the state. They said the helicopter operators were expected to commence operations normally within a few months, except where the airports or helipads require significant upgrade.