Among the Centre’s list of around 90 tier-III places across India that are poised for a take-off, five are Jharkhand towns.
The Union ministry of civil aviation, under its flagship regional and remote air connectivity policy, has included Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Deoghar, Hazaribagh and Bokaro to bring out the mineral-rich state from an air pocket of unending troubles.
“These five Jharkhand cities are on the central radar,” Union civil aviation secretary K.N. Srivastava said on Tuesday, addressing industrialists, businessmen and tour operators at an interactive session hosted by Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FJCCI) and state civil aviation department at a city hotel.
Capital Ranchi, with its brand-new multi-crore terminal, isn’t a part of this specific scheme as it is a veteran flier.
Srivastava, who came to Ranchi on Monday and held “constructive talks” with chief minister Hemant Soren and chief secretary R.S. Sharma, told the gathering of entrepreneurs on Tuesday that the government of India was looking at an aviation boom led by tier-III cities.
“Right now, India ranks global ninth in aviation but world agencies have forecasted that in the next 15 years, we will be third. Currently, India has 400 aircraft, which will then increase five-fold. But projections will turn real only if tier-III cities get air links,” Srivastava said.
With the Union secretary were state aviation secretary Sajal Chakravarty, Ranchi airport director Raju Raghvendra Kumar and FJCCI president Ranjit Tibrewal.
Jharkhand slashed aviation turbine fuel (or air fuel tax) from 20 per cent to 4 per cent on March 29 during President’s Rule, sparking off interest among airlines.
“IndiGo is set to commence operations from August 18 to Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta. By October, three airlines, Air India, Jet Airways and Spice Jet, might start operations. I am meeting aviation players in New Delhi this month,” Srivastava said.
Srivastava added he came to Jharkhand to review sites and understand ground realities for better coordination.
He said they had set a “two-month deadline” to officially sign a combined MoU with the state government to revamp or build airports in Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Bokaro and Hazaribagh. The MoU will list the timeframe, budget and logistic support required for each. An MoU for Deoghar has already been signed.
“Based on my talks with the chief minister, chief secretary and others, I understand except Bokaro, other places have land, water and power issues. The Centre will bear the total cost but the state must ensure full logistic support. Within a fortnight, a central team will come for physical site verification and prepare detailed project reports,” he added.
Srivastava also tackled with candour the concerns raised by business and tour operators, which ranged from poor connectivity, low flight frequency, the need to convert the Ranchi airport into an international one, to interstate flying and others.
From Ranchi, right now one can only fly to Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, Calcutta, and during the holy Shravan month, Deoghar.
Tibrewal told The Telegraph that they had formally requested Srivastava for flights from Ranchi to Hyderabad, Raipur, Pune, Goa, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai, which can also be extended to touch global connectors Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai and Sri Lanka.
“For an economy to prosper, you need air connectivity. There’s huge demand for flights to these places in both economy and business class,” he told The Telegraph.
Parking hassles and below-par utilisation of the revamped Ranchi airport since this March were other grouses to which Srivastava said they were “looking into” them.
“It will at least take a year for Ranchi airport to become an international terminal as it needs a 10,000ft runway. Currently, the revamped airport has 8,000ft but land acquisition is stuck. The army, which has an airbase nearby, has agreed to relocate now. I met them yesterday. Now, the onus is on the state to find them (army) suitable land fast,” Srivastava said.
On air taxi and air ambulance, he added private players were being explored to work under the PPP mode.
What is the biggest challenge for Jharkhand’s air links?
Five lucky cities?
Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Deoghar, Hazaribagh
What will they get?
Revamped or new airport, for starters
Will Ranchi airport have international flights?
Yes, but it needs a 10,000ft runway. At present, it has 8,000ft, but things may change as the army has decided to relocate airbase
Any new airlines?
Yes, after Jharkhand slashed aviation turbine fuel (or air fuel tax) from 20 per cent to 4 per cent on March 29, 2013, airlines are showing interest. In the pipeline are IndiGo, Air India,
Jet Airways, Spice Jet
What’s the catch?
The Centre will fund the boom but the state must deliver logistic support — land and electricity being the vital ones