Ranchi, Aug. 13: Dhanbad and Dumka could boast of air links in the near future if the state civil aviation department succeeds in wooing operators, four of whom have put in bids to start charter services and maintain the two airstrips that are now only used by politicians and VIPs.
The department has received four proposals from firms willing to start flight operations by way of obtaining non-scheduled operation permit (NSOP) from the director-general of civil aviation (DGCA).
We have received a good response from bidders. The department will soon open technical bids of the proposals received from at least four players. It will now depend on their technical qualifications, civil aviation secretary V.K. Singh told The Telegraph.
While Dhanbad airstrip at Barwadda is 3,800 feet long, the one in Dumka is a bit longer at around 4,000 feet.
Air connectivity with Dhanbad, the coal capital of India with headquarters of Coal India Ltd 269km away in Calcutta, will go a long way in boosting local as well as the states economic fortunes.
The district headquarters of Dumka, the most important town of the Santhal Pargana region also considered to be the second capital of the state, is hamstrung by poor road and rail connectivity. If air links are started, the region is sure to be looked at afresh by prospective investors.
As of now, the state cabinet has handed over maintenance of the Dumka airstrip to Naveen Jindal-owned Jindal Steel & Power Limited (JSPL), the company which has proposed to set up mining and power units in the Santhal Pargana region.
The civil aviation department had invited proposals from permit holders in the second week of July to improve air connectivity in Jharkhand by linking Dumka and Dhanbad, besides maintaining the respective airstrips.
With commercial flight operations suspended in Jamshedpur, only capital Ranchi offers air connectivity.
The state is now looking at public private partnerships (PPP) for Dhanbad and Dumka. While the infrastructure would be provided by the state government, prospective companies would be allowed to start chartered flights in addition to taking responsibility of day-to-day maintenance.
As per the expression of interest published by the government, the selected firms would be allowed to use the airstrips for 10 years. But, they will also have to maintain the airstrips.
The selected agency would have to construct administrative buildings, air traffic control and hangars once the proposals get a final nod from the state government.