Aizawl, Dec. 28: This is one New Year gift that the residents of Mizoram would have loved to do without.
While the world morphs into a global village with increased air connectivity and faster travel modes, the only direct flight to Guwahati, and in turn, other states of the Northeast, from here is being shut down from January 1, 2013.
The reason: a squabble over subsidy between the North Eastern Council (NEC) and Alliance Air.
The lone seven-days-a-week Aizawl-Guwahati flight run by Alliance Air, an Air India subsidiary, is more a necessity than a luxury for hundreds of travellers from Mizoram.
While an Air India statement had said that NEC had not paid its share of the subsidy under the agreement, the council had countered this saying there was no agreement and that Alliance Air had been flying on its own, which is trifle hard to believe.
The NEC head had also accused Air India in a recent news conference of not servicing all the routes in the Northeast and for frequent cancellations of flights on short notice.
“Isn’t that the worst possible New Year gift from any government?” asked Lalhmangaiha, a student who had come home for Christmas and had already booked a return ticket to Guwahati to go back to his college in Assam.
Hundreds of passengers will be affected, particularly because this is the high season of travel when students and workers go back to their places of study and work after the Christmas vacations. Passengers with booked tickets are angry and have nowhere to go to redress their grievances.
Rajya Sabha member Lalhmingliana, who is also a member of the parliamentary committee on civil aviation, told The Telegraph that he was deeply disturbed by the development.
“Do these bureaucrats give any thought to ordinary people? Hundreds have booked tickets. Who will take responsibility for them? It’s not only about getting a refund. Will the NEC secretary or Air India make separate arrangements for them?” he said.
While expressing surprise about the authorities’ insensitivity towards the needs of the people, he said the flight was absolutely necessary, as the people of Mizoram, particularly students, business people and those seeking medical treatment in Guwahati, desperately needed it.
“The way these officials have reached this decision is too abrupt and is not acceptable. They have to change it.”
Just a few weeks back, DoNER minister Pawan Singh Ghatowar had come to Mizoram to announce goodies for development of the state but he seems to have had no knowledge that his underlings were about to throw the state back into the days of hardy road travel.
A Mizoram government official said this was the worst possible thing that could have happened to the state.
He said there was another private airline was flying the same route but with a stopover at Calcutta. “When will the Indian authorities learn not to take away with the left hand what they have given with the right?” he asked.