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Cash chaos grounds Shravan flight

Ranchi, July 20: The proposed daily flight between Ranchi and Deoghar from July 21 for affluent pilgrims during the holy Shravan month has been grounded this year, thanks to state tourism department and Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FJCCI) not being on the same page.

In an unintentional comedy of errors, Jharkhand tourism department on July 17 announced the launch of the special Ranchi-Deoghar to and fro air service from July 21 to August 10, to the bafflement of executing agency FJCCI.

The FJCCI refused to run the service, stating tourism department principal secretary Vishnu Kumar had neither taken their consent nor agreed to monetary terms before going public with their decision.

Well before Shravan, the FJCCI mooted the Ranchi-Deoghar chartered flight idea before tourism department mandarins. Their idea was to give high net worth individuals the scope to fly to Deoghar from Ranchi and back. The hassle-free trip, including Lord Shiva’s darshan at Babadham, would take around two-and-a-half hours only, the FJCCI had said.

For this, the FJCCI had wanted Rs 10 lakh as an advance amount from the tourism department to procure nine-seater aircraft. Also, they calculated the two-way cost per person at Rs 18,000.

The tourism department, however, differed. They fixed the charges per person, both ways, at Rs 10,999 per person.

According to chairman of FJCCI (tour and travel committee) Pankaj Kumar, tourism department officials kept mum on the advance sum.

The state offered the FJCCI Rs 1 lakh as reimbursement every three days for the service, which Kumar said was not enough. “For three days, we would have incurred a cost of Rs 1.89 lakh, but the state would have paid us Rs 1 lakh. Who would have borne the loss?” he asked.

“Though the FJCCI had proposed the no-profit, no-loss air service to boost state tourism, even before the deal could be finalised with the department, announcements were made on dates and rates. We wrote to the tourism department two days ago refusing our support to the project that would have meant a massive loss to us,” Kumar added. “As matters stood, it was simply not feasible.”

A flight service requires capital and planning time, which the tourism department did not understand, he said. “We are helpless. We had 100 confirmed passengers but had to turn them down,” he said.

Taking a jibe at the tourism department for snubbing their request for Rs 10 lakh in advance, Kumar said: “They prefer spending crores without results. Since Jharkhand’s birth, we have seen many tourism projects and facilities lying neglected. We took a proactive role to boost religious tourism in Deoghar on the lines of Amarnath and Vaishno Devi yatras, but it fell flat due to the department’s lack of initiative.”

On his side, tourism department principal secretary Vishnu Kumar explained why they couldn’t pay an advance.

“Our rules do not permit paying an advance. If the FJCCI has refused, we have to see how the air service can have a smoother launch next time,” he said.


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