In a bid to boost the air connectivity to the remote and strategic locations of the Northeastern region, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has identified 22 airports and helipads for the second phase of the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS). These include nine in Arunachal Pradesh, five each in Assam and Manipur and one each in Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim.
Northeast India has a huge scope in terms of development in aviation sector and recently there have been a lot of developments in terms of air connectivity of different states of Northeast India with the rest of the country.
In the list of routes awarded in the first phase of the scheme, announced in March, only six airports in the North-East — Shillong, Dimapur, Imphal, Silchar, Aizawl and Agartala — were connected.
Several airports identified under the RCS are currently being used by the Indian Air Force including Daporijo, Yinghong, Ziro, Pasighat, Along, Tuting and Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. The aerodromes at Tezpur, Jorhat and Lilabari in Assam are also operated by the IAF, but will have separate civilian enclaves under the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
The airports and helipads in Arunachal Pradesh fall under the category of ‘unserved’ airports, meaning they have no civilian flights landing there.
AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra however played down the “defence” angle to the air connectivity ramp-up adding that in times of war, the entire airspace of the country and airports are in any case under the control of defence forces. He said, “Lack of air connectivity is a huge problem in these places. At times of medical emergencies, it becomes next to impossible for support to reach there because airport infrastructure is not there. That is what we are trying to solve.”