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Bengal police enter Calcutta air traffic control room (again) to ensure timely landing of Mamata's flight

Mamata Banerjee

Calcutta: The air traffic control room at the city airport had two outsiders on Friday afternoon - cops sent by the Bidhannagar commissionerate to ensure hassle-free landing of chief minister Mamata Banerjee's flight from Bagdogra, sources said.

This was the second time in less than a month that police entered the ATC - a high-security zone - before the touch-down of the chief minister's flight from Bagdogra.

In November 2016, a delayed landing of Mamata's flight from Patna, and the pilot's complaint that the aircraft was running out of fuel, had prompted Trinamul to allege a conspiracy to murder the chief minister.

On Friday, two officers of the Bidhannagar commissionerate sat in front of the official in charge of the ATC for the entire duration of the chief minister's flight.

"They entered the control room before the CM's flight had taken off from Bagdogra and stayed there for more than an hour, till it landed. The ATC team was extremely uncomfortable at the presence of the policemen," an airport official said.

Both cops had entry passes, he said.

Four policemen had entered the control room when Mamata was flying back from Bagdogra on February 23. Three of them allegedly did not have an entry permit.

On February 9, the IndiGo flight on which Mamata was returning from north Bengal had to hover over the Calcutta airport for 19 minutes before landing. The chief minister reportedly expressed her unhappiness over the delay and cops entered the ATC building the next day to question officials.

Airports Authority of India chairman Guruprasad Mahapatra had spoken to the state government and requested them not to interfere in the ATC affairs.

"I had spoken to the people concerned in the Bengal government. Regarding today's incident, I have to receive information and then take the next course of action," Mahapatra told Metro.

Bidhannagar police commissioner Gyanwant Singh did not take calls or answer a text message.

Mamata was scheduled to board an IndiGo flight, which was to take off from Bagdogra at 4.35pm. But the flight from Calcutta, with 180 passengers on board, could not land at Bagdogra because of a strong tailwind - 46kmph - and had to be diverted to Guwahati.

Sources said an attempt was made to accommodate the chief minister and her seven-member team on a SpiceJet flight but there were no seats.

An AirAsia flight had 10 seats available and eight were booked for the chief minister and her team.

The aircraft took off around 6pm and landed in Calcutta at 6.57pm

Sources at the Calcutta airport said the ATC had been verbally told to ensure there were no delays in the landing of Mamata's flight.

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