Agartala: Government is trying to improve air connectivity among northeastern states and between northeast India and adjacent countries, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said here on Tuesday.
"Central government is trying to improve the air connectivity between the eight northeastern states. Air connectivity between northeast India and the adjoining countries is also vital," Sinha told reporters.
He said: "Efforts are on to start air connectivity between the northeastern states and the neighbouring countries. If there is air connectivity between northeast India and Bangkok, Dhaka and Yangon, one need not take the longer route through Kolkata. This would also boost trade and economy."
Currently, Guwahati and Imphal are the only two cities with international airports in northeast India.
After holding a long meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Transport Minister Manik Dey, the union minister said that the Civil Aviation Ministry has undertaken a Rs 400 crore project to upgrade Agartala airport to international standards by providing world-class facilities.
"The works for upgrading Agartala airport (Singarbil Airport) would start soon. The issue of renaming the airport has been discussed with the Chief Minister," he added.
The junior Civil Aviation minister said the central government expects some private airlines to soon introduce more flights in the northeast and operate international flights from there.
"To improve regional air connectivity at fair price, MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) would be signed with the governments of the northeastern states," he added.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had earlier approved a Rs 438 crore project to upgrade Agartala airport to international standards by providing top-class facilities.
"The Civil Aviation Ministry has undertaken an ambitious project to operationalise 50 currently unused airports across the country, including the northeastern region," the minister said, adding that the government is keen to offer fair prices in air travel in the country.
Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey later said that flights between (Bangladesh capital) Dhaka - as well as important Bangladesh cities like Chittagong and Sylhet - and Agartala could be operated to boost trade and tourism besides people to people connect.
He said upgradation of Agartala airport is very vital as Tripura capital city is the second largest city in northeast India in terms of population and air traffic after Guwahati.
Dey said that Agartala airport handled 816,303 passengers in 2013 and the number rose to 905,014 in 2015.
The state government also urged the union minister to take steps to increase the number of flights from Agartala to Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati keeping in mind the poor road condition of the national highways in the mountainous region.
Dey said the state government had already provided 72 acres of land to AAI for construction of the new terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure in Agartala airport.
The Tripura Minister said the state government has relocated 157 families to acquire 72 acres of land.
The Tripura government has long been demanding operation of flights between northeastern states and adjoining Bangladesh to boost trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts.