By The Editor
Earlier only the rich and well-to-do people besides ministers and senior government officials could afford to travel by air. Even the old logo of Air India was the Maharaja which accordingly conveyed the message across the country and the world. Air connectivity then was limited to only six big metro cities of India and people of small and even medium cities were not getting the benefit of the same. Rise in business and demand for swift travel in order to save time and energy became a matter of great concern. North East (NE) India was greatly handicapped due to lack of proper road communications not to mention air connectivity. Only link for Meghalaya with the rest of the country was only Guwahati-Shillong Road and Shillong – Silchar Road. Even travelling between Shillong and Tura was only by road via Guwahati which usually took nearly half-a- day not to talk about inconveniences. Nearest airport was at Guwahati about 125 kilometres from Shillong which took more than three hours by road and that too if free from traffic jams, which was quite frequent.
With economic activities flourishing, business enterprises increasing and the tourism sector especially growing at a rapid pace giving a boost to air traffic became a great necessity. Now, even common citizens can dream of air travel at least once in their lifetime. In order to match with changing time Air India’s logo now includes R K Laxman’s `Common Man’ which incidentally was the suggestion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, to Union Civil Aviation Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudi during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government. Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) Scheme under National Civil Aviation Policy started in October 2016 and in April 2017 the first flight from Shimla to Delhi was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. This scheme will greatly boost tourism in the country because even lower middle class can easily avail the opportunity of travelling by plane. Tourist spots like Agra, Udaipur, Varanasi and Goa and NE routes which include Agartala- Aizawl, Shillong-Kolkata, Dimapur – Imphal and Guwahati connecting with various town sand cities are under UDAN Scheme. Water aerodromes are being developed at Sabarmati. Rivers in Gujarat, Tehri Dam in Uttarakhand and Nagarjuna Sagar in Telengana and similar facilities will also be created in Andhra Pradesh, Assam,and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. More than 300 cities all over the country will get connected to each other through air routes under UDAN Scheme, out of which more than half have already been connected so far. With regard to NE states, 10 airports have been proposed. Under this scheme, the average cost of travel is Rs 5 per kilometer and for a half-an-hour journey of 500 kilometres, only Rs 2,500.
Umroi Airport which connects Shillong with other towns and cities has been a great boon to people of the region. As it is at present, the airport is not yet fully completed and infrastructures need great attention especially during heavy monsoon because approach roads are muddy and flooded. Civil aviation authorities have to also plan for proper management with basic facilities and amenities.