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Chopper takes wing & a guest

- Prosenjit promotes Santiniketan helicopter service
Prosenjit with Srijit Mukherjee after landing at Bolpur. Picture by Indrajit Sarkar

Bolpur, Jan. 12: Actor Prosenjit and director Srijit Mukherjee today flew to Santiniketan from Calcutta by a Pawan Hans helicopter as part of a promotion for a chopper service that will start on January 18.

Asked about the service, transport secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said: “The helicopter service between Calcutta and Santiniketan will start on Saturday. The flight will for the time being operate once a week and carry seven passengers apart from the pilot, captain and a technician at a time.”

The chopper flight to Santiniketan is part of the state government’s plan to start services from Calcutta to other destinations such as Durgapur, Sagar island and Balurghat.

The twin-engine Dauphin helicopter carrying Prosenjit and Srijit today landed at Bolpur Stadium, where the actor-director duo promoted their film Jatishwar, releasing this Friday.

From the next flight onwards, the helicopter will land at Paruldanga ground, about 3.5km from Bolpur town. Pawan Hans will operate the flight and each passenger will have to pay Rs 1,500 for a one-way trip.

“Today’s was a promotional trip. Regular service from Calcutta to Bolpur and back will be available at the Paruldanga helipad from Saturday,” said Mukesh Malhotra, the captain of today’s helicopter.

Calcuttans willing to go to Santiniketan by the chopper will have to board at Behala Flying Club.

A Birbhum district official said tickets for Calcutta would initially be available online. Later, a booking counter will be opened in Bolpur. “The service is now in its primary stage. Booking counters will be set up in Bolpur a few weeks later,” the official added.

The subdivisional officer of Bolpur, Moloy Haldar, said advertisements detailing the chopper service would be issued in newspapers soon. “We hope the service will be popular in Bolpur.”

Fisheries minister Chandranath Sinha, who attended the promotional of Jatishwar today, said: “The helicopter service in the state is a dream project of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. People of Bolpur will now have a better and faster connectivity with Calcutta.”

Residents of Bolpur and Santiniketan welcomed the decision to start the helicopter service.

Officials said the service would be useful to people who fail to get reserved seats in trains and are forced to hire cars at a much higher price. Although the cost of travelling to Calcutta by a chopper will be about five times the train fare, it will be less than what a traveller would have to pay to hire a car.

Partha Sarathi Biswas, a businessman in Bolpur who regularly travels to Calcutta by train or a hired car, said: “I have to pay around Rs 300 for an AC chair car seat in a train. When I hire a car in an emergency, it costs me about Rs 2,800. For me, taking a chopper will be better as it would take only 40 minutes to reach Behala.”

Visva-Bharati registrar D. Gunasekaran told The Telegraph: “People of Santiniketan are dependent on Calcutta for better health services. It will be extremely helpful if a patient can reach Calcutta in less than an hour.”