The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 2 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tripura plea to Delhi: Rethink ATR pullout

Agartala, Jan. 1: The Tripura government has asked the Centre to review its decision to withdraw ATR-50 aircraft services from the Northeast with effect from today.

Asserting that 72-seater ATR services are crucial to maintaining links between northeastern capitals, the transport commissioner of the state government, Kishore Ambuly, said the Centre has been requested to continue the subsidised service in the interest of better connectivity in the region.

He refused to disclose why the Union civil aviation ministry withdrew the service.

Highly placed sources in the state government said the ministry took the decision after the North Eastern Council’s failure to clear dues amounting to nearly Rs 100 crore accumulated over the past two years.

“The ATR-50 aircraft service was introduced since 2004 after a number of accidents in which the Pawan Hans helicopter service was involved. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the NEC has made no payment and hence the decision by the Union ministry of civil aviation,” a source said.

Describing the withdrawal of service as a major setback, sources said it would deal a big blow to air services between Agartala-Guwahati, Agartala-Silchar and Agartala-Calcutta routes.

“There are private air services but the withdrawal of Kingfisher Airlines has left the field open for other private players to raise fares. The people of the state will be hard put to pay the exorbitant fares,” a source said, adding that the subsidised ATR services used to be a balancing factor in keeping fares at affordable rates.

ATR aircraft had one flight each to Guwahati, Silchar and Calcutta daily.

Official sources in the transport department said chief minister Manik Sarkar, who is currently in Delhi in connection with his wife’s medical treatment, will take up the issue with the Centre after his return.

“The chief minister will take up the issue because our letters and petitions are unlikely to make an impact. Our chief minister backed by support from other chief ministers of the Northeast will have to urge the Centre and the NEC to ensure continuation of the service, otherwise people in the region will suffer,” a source in the transport department said.

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