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Nod to flights from airstrips

Calcutta, Nov. 13: The defence ministry has agreed to clear commercial operations from the airstrips in Panagarh and Kanchrapara.

Defence minister A.K. Antony has written to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, saying his ministry has no objection if the civil aviation ministry starts commercial flights from the two strips in Burdwan and Nadia.

“Antony has said that though it is not possible to transfer the airstrips to the civil aviation ministry, his ministry would issue a formal approval if civil aviation approaches it directly,” said an official in the chief minister’s secretariat.

“It’s a good start. The current mandate for the civil aviation ministry is to have small airports in each and every corner of the country. This includes upgradation of abandoned/loss-making airports. If some commercial carriers want to operate flights from here, we’ll definitely consider it,” said S.P.S. Bakshi, regional director of the Airports Authority of India.

Officials said Panagarh is an important site as the area has witnessed industrial growth in recent times. “Also, the town is located near Tarapeeth and Santiniketan. Once commercial flights begin, it will be a big boost to tourists heading there,” an official said.

Two months ago, the chief minister had written to then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, seeking the use of six abandoned airfields in Panagarh, Chharra in Purulia, Salua near Kharagpur, Andal in Burdwan, Bishnupur in Bankura and Salboni in West Midnapore.

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