Tripura on Tuesday requested the central government to reconsider the decision to withdraw ATR—50 aircraft services of Air India in the northeast, which remains isolated from the rest of the world due to poor connectivity.
“Due to poor railway connectivity and geography of the region, the people of most of the north-eastern states have to depend on air travel to go to other parts of the country,” Tripura Transport Secretary Kishore Ambuly said in a letter to the civil aviation ministry.
Many small ATR aircraft with 50 seats have been operating in the region, connecting capital cities of the north-eastern states with Kolkata. The civil aviation ministry has, however, decided to withdraw the service from Tuesday.
According to an Air India official, ATR-50 aircraft services were a temporary arrangement since 2004 to establish linkage among north-eastern states. The North Eastern Council (NEC) has been paying Rs.35 crore annually to Air India as subsidies for these ATR-50 flights.
“The service was withdrawn as NEC failed to make payment on subsidies to Air India,” an official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
NEC officials said recently that ATR-50 aircraft services between the capital cities of the north-eastern states were very poor, despite payment of a large amount of money on subsidies.
ATR-50 aircraft are a crucial mode of travel between many cities of the region and Kolkata. “The withdrawal of service might disrupt the connectivity in the region,” an NEC official said.