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IA Malaysia quest cleared

New Delhi, Nov. 27: The Union Cabinet has cleared an air services agreement between Indian Airlines and Malaysian Airlines (MAS) under which IA will get two landing points in Malaysia at Penang and Langkawi and MAS flights will touch down at Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj told newspersons that a highlight of the agreement was that India would get two additional points in United States.

Swaraj said the agreement would facilitate US passengers coming to India via Kuala Lumpur which could now directly land at Bangalore or Hyderabad instead of Chennai and Mumbai earlier.

The Cabinet also decided to give Rs 230 crore as an interim assistance to Bhutan for its ninth five-year plan. The government will continue such financial aid for the next five years. India has been giving financial assistance to Bhutan for its five-year plans since 1961.

For Bhutan's ninth five year plan beginning July 2002, the government has proposed the interim assistance to help continuation of work on spillover projects from the previous plans. The amount of final assistance for the ninth plan of Bhutan has not been decided yet and will be determined at a latter stage, said Swaraj.

In another decision taken by the Cabinet, the government will continue to provide subsidised helicopter ferry services to Lakshwadeep provided by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd for the next five years with an annual subsidy of Rs 7 crore.

Pawan Hans will continue to subsidise 80 per cent of the fare for Indian passengers between Lakshwadeep islands and Agati, from where regular air services are currently available to the mainland. However, the subsidy will not be available for foreign tourists visiting the islands and they will have to pay the full fare.

The decision to continue with the subsidised airfare started in 1987. It was taken in view of the absence of medical services available in the islands; helicopters were used to ferry patients for treatment, particularly during monsoon when the ferry and ship services were not available.

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