Silchar, Dec. 5: Three Air India flights, one from Calcutta and two from Guwahati could not land at Kumbhirgram airport here after a road blockade by labourers of Coomber and Koombirgram tea estates in Cachar district early this morning prevented airport staff from reaching their workplace on time.
The labourers blocked the road connecting the town to the airport to protest against traffic regulations imposed by air force authorities at Koombirgram on Monday barring the movement of passersby and vehicles on the road within the air force area.
The road will be kept open only three times a day — between 7am and 9am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm and 4.30pm and 8pm.
The flight from Calcutta was diverted to Guwahati and finally returned to Calcutta. The flight from Guwahati was diverted to Agartala and finally returned to Guwahati. The second flight from Guwahati made an attempt to land at 7am but returned to Guwahati. It took off again from Guwahati around noon and managed to land at Kumbhirgram at 1pm.
A Jet Airways flight from Calcutta, however, could land at 6.15am with 50 passengers, who were stranded in the airport lounge because there were no staff at the airport. The passengers could not get food as the canteen was closed and even the shops outside the airport were shut because of the road blockade.
“These few hours at the airport itself were simply traumatic. Even the toilets were locked,” said passenger Robin Deb.
Assam’s BJP state unit president Sarbananda Sonowal was one of the Guwahati-bound passengers, whose flight was delayed as a consequence.
The road blockade, which began at 5am, was withdrawn at 11.45am after the Cachar district administration and the authorities of the two gardens, owned by the Goodricks Ltd, intervened.
To prevent any further impasse, the district administration has called an emergency meeting in the deputy commissioner’s office at 5pm tomorrow.
Cachar superintendent of police Diganta Bora said today the meeting would be attended by the senior officials of the district administration, police, the air force, the Indian Tea Association (ITA) and the three affected gardens.
An IAF official at its helicopter base at Kumbhirgram airport, 24km from here, said such road restrictions were clamped “because of security reasons”.
Tea garden sources said the three gardens had suffered a loss of Rs 10 lakh in the past three days because of this traffic restriction.
The airport is supervised by the IAF since it falls under the defence ministry. The Airports Authority of India only supervises civilian flights to and from the airport. Even its air traffic control wing is under the aegis of the IAF.