• West Bengal government accepts Centre’s air connectivity scheme with rider

    The West Bengal government today accepted the regional connectivity scheme in civil aviation as proposed by the Centre, but at the same time, threatened to pull out of it if the state had to bear in excess of the 20 per cent share as has been committed by the Centre under the Viability Gap Funding (VGF).

    “The VGF is to be shared between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the state governments in the 80:20 ratio. We shall pull out of the scheme if the state has to bear in excess of the 20 per cent share as committed by the Centre,” state Transport Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said while briefing reporters on the outcome of a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport with the state government.

    “The chief minister has discussed several issues relating to our state at the meeting. She has urged the MoCA to restrict the flight fare from un-served and under-served airports to Rs 2,500. The Centre will have to bear 80 per cent, while for the state, it will be a maximum of 20 per cent if the fare exceeds the limit,” Bandyopadhyay said.

    While the meeting was chaired by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey led the visiting delegation.

    The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) had proposed a fare of Rs 2,500 per hour of flying, for around 500 kms, under the regional connectivity scheme.

    The chief minister also urged the MoCA for direct flights from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in the city to European destinations, Bandyopadhyay said, adding that the MoCA has assured her to look into the possibilities.

    The state government believed that four airports in the state — Balurghat, Durgapur, Cooch Behar and Malda — would benefit once the scheme became operational, the Transport Secretary said.

    The chief minister also urged the MoCA for the revival of Behala Flying Club, he said, adding that Choubey assured her that the Centre would float an expression of interest (EOI) shortly, inviting private agencies for the purpose.

    The MoCA would also form a three-member committee, comprising the state Transport Secretary, an Airport Authority of India (AAI) official and a Defence Ministry official, to look after the maintenance of Bagdogra airport near Siliguri.

    It may be noted that the main objective of the National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016 was to make regional air connectivity a reality. Von Miller Authentic Jersey

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