Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bastar opens up: 6-hour drive from Raipur is now a 40-minute flight

Jagdalpur: For close to a decade, Ved Prakash Ram has set up his tea stall a few hundred metres away from the boundary wall of the airstrip in Jagdalpur, the headquarters of Bastar district in Chhattisgarh. For him, an aircraft usually means the thump of a helicopter. But around 1 pm Thursday, Ved Prakash heard an engine he didn’t recognise. It was the low hum of a twin-engine, 19-seater Beechcraft 1900 D. “The new sound was unfamiliar, it sounded different,” he said.

As the Air Odisha plane passed through the celebratory water cannon salute in Jagdalpur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi waved a green flag in Bhilai, 300 km away, in a symbolic gesture to mark the beginning of commercial flights linking Bastar under the UDAAN regional air connectivity scheme.

Inside the new Bastar terminal, constructed at a cost of Rs 39.58 crore, reporters and officials watched and waved as the flight took off on its 40-minute hop to Raipur – a journey that takes six-seven hours by road. “For many years in India, all the talk about Bastar was about bombs, guns, pistols and violence. Today, the talk about Bastar is linked to the airport in Jagdalpur,” said Modi.

Rajat Kumar, Special Secretary (Civil Aviation), Chhattisgarh, told The Indian Express that the airport was important for Bastar to shed the image that it is “an island”.
16/06/18 Dipankar Ghose/Indian Express