Tripura seeks flights to Bangladesh

Agartala, July 22 (IANS) The Tripura government has urged the civil aviation ministry to operate flights from Agartala airport to Bangladesh and adjoining countries to boost trade and tourism, officials said here Monday.

A state government official said Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has assured Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar that he will examine the issue of operating flights from Agartala to cities in Bangladesh and neighbouring countries.

Sarkar met Singh in New Delhi Friday and discussed modernisation of Agartala airport and making Kailashahar and Kamalpur airports in northern Tripura operational.

Agartala airport is the second busiest one in the northeast region after Guwahati airport in Assam. About 22 flights operate to and from Agartala everyday, carrying about 2,700 passengers per day.

"In view of the increasing traffic volume at Agartala airport, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) has prepared a plan for development of the airport," Sarkar said in a memorandum to the union minister.

"There is considerable movement of people between northeastern states and Bangladesh and there is a lot of demand for connectivity between Agartala, Dhaka and Chittagong and other cities of that country in the context of improving relations between the two neighbours," the official said as saying by Sarkar.

Union Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary K.N. Shrivastava said here recently that Imphal airport in Manipur would soon be notified as an international airport while Agartala airport would have international standards by 2015.

The airports are being made international as part of India's "Look East" policy to boost the northeast region's connectivity and trade with Southeast Asia.

"Necessary upgradation works have been completed at Imphal airport. A proposal would soon be submitted before the union cabinet to declare it as an international airport," Shrivastava had told reporters.

AAI chairman V.P. Agrawal, who accompanied Shrivastava, said that private airlines IndiGo and Spice Jet have shown interest to operate flights from Agartala to Bangladesh.

Shrivastava said: "After the declaration of Imphal and Agartala airports as international ones, air connectivity between the cities of northeast India and Myanmar, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries would be easier and boost trade, tourism and people-to-people contact."

In the northeast, air services are available at Agartala, Lengpui (Aizawl), Bagdogra, Dimapur (Nagaland), Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Silchar (in Assam), Imphal in Manipur.

In addition, Barapani (Shillong), Lilabari and Tezpur (both in Assam) are also operational airports but scheduled flights are not operating from them.

According to an AAI official, a new terminal building was constructed at Barapani airport in May 2010 at a cost of Rs.29.70 crore.

There is a proposal for further expansion and modernisation of Barapani airport and Rs.75.65 crore has been earmarked for it in the 12th Five Year Plan.