Jorhat, May 24: Public carrier Air India has decided to move out of Jorhat, Lakhimpur and Tezpur. The airline is sending a team to carry out an assessment at the three places in order to close down the offices.
Assessment of the handling agent’s office at Lakhimpur was conducted yesterday and the Jorhat office has been informed that its turn is next.
Lakhimpur handling agent Uday Shankar Hazarika said the move initiated by the national airlines would further compound the communication bottlenecks which Lakhimpur already faces.
“We are living in a socialist democratic republic and a public service carrier cannot operate on the basis of profit and loss. It has a social commitment to the people. Despite withdrawal of services in Lakhimpur a year-and-a-half ago, people here and those living across the border in Arunachal Pradesh, including its capital Itanagar, were hoping that flights would resume. But we know this is not going to happen,” Hazarika said.
He further said Lakhimpur was at quite a distance from good hospitals. It was not possible for senior citizens to undertake the arduous journey by road. Train services are also erratic with no long distance trains on this route.
Hazarika and the others who have been affected are pinning their hopes on Narendra Modi and his government to ensure that Air India operates flights to the Northeast.
Air India had discontinued flights from these three places from January 2013 over a subsidy issue with the North Eastern Council. However, about two years ago, the public carrier had cancelled innumerable flights citing various reasons.
For several years in Jorhat, the airline service provider had operated a small ATR aircraft, which took a longer time to complete the jorney to and from Calcutta. This had led to a preference for the larger planes provided by private airliner Jet Airways, the only other company that provides its services here. Lilabari airport at Lakhimpur and Salonibari airport at Tezpur do not have any flights.
Industrialist O.P. Gattani said the move initiated by Air India would affect the communication network adversely. “We would like to appeal to Air India to reconsider the move especially for Jorhat as there are several customers who fly from Jorhat everyday,” Gattani said. Jorhat is strategically and industrially important with a number of tea gardens, the ONGC’s Assam headquarters and Assam Arakan Basin and the OIL pumping station located here. The air force and army units are also stationed here as well as a large number of colleges and universities.
like the Assam Agricultural University, Kaziranga University, Jorhat Engineering College, Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, ITI and POWIET.
The five-member assessment team would decide on what to do with the office and airport equipment like computers, trolleys and ladders before winding up operations.