Central team meets State officials, greets proposal with enthusiasm

Night flights in the Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi sector are likely to become operational soon to give a fillip to tourism even as Srinagar and Kargil are being connected by a commercial helicopter service.

A high-level team from the Centre, headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, on Saturday reviewed progress on security, development and tourism-related issues with top functionaries of the State government. Prime Minister’s Adviser S. Ramadorai and administrative Secretaries of nearly two dozen departments were part of the 30-member team that discussed key developmental issues, including night flights, with a team of senior officials and State bureaucrats headed by the Chief Secretary.

Earlier Mr. Seth also called on Governor Narendar Nath Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Sources said the current security scenario, infiltration of militants, return and rehabilitation of the former militants from Pakistan and PoK besides empowerment and protection of over 30,000 panches and sarpanches were discussed in the meeting with officials.

Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday told The Hindu that some 300 issues had been flagged in the previous meeting last year. Of that, more than half had been fully resolved. Around 50 fresh issues came up for discussion on Saturday.

“We are now expecting night flights till 10 p.m. in the J&K sector any time as the Central team showed tremendous enthusiasm for the proposals of boosting tourism and providing relief to the common passengers,” Mr. Khanday said. The Chief Secretary said night flights were likely to begin at Srinagar airport but Jammu airport too would be equipped to handle operations. He said the Central team agreed to extend the private helicopter service to the Kargil-Srinagar route besides reducing its fares. A private company had launched the service on the Kargil-Jammu-Chandigarh route last year.

Night flights in the sector, according to Mr. Khanday, had become inevitable as the rush of tourists and common passengers was increasing. Airlines took undue advantage, hiking the fares phenomenally in 2011 and 2012.

According to Superintendent of Police (Anti-hijacking), Abdul Rashid, Srinagar airport was currently operating 22 flights and a schedule of 32 flights a day had recently been approved.