Bar On Sgr-Leh Flights Continues, Government Mum

Bar On Sgr-Leh Flights Continues, Government Mum

24 May 2011
Greater Kashmir
Faheem Aslam

Srinagar: In a major concern, the Ladakh division of Jammu and Kashmir finds little connectivity with Kashmir Valley by air, with only one flight operating from the Srinagar ‘International’ Airport to Leh in a week. And this, according to stakeholders, is drastically impeding the flow of more tourists and airlines to the Valley besides causing huge inconvenience to the state-based passengers. This time around, the lone Srinagar-Leh flight of a domestic airline operates on Wednesdays from the Srinagar airport while two flights a week operate from Jammu to Leh and a daily flight to Delhi to Leh. This has become a pain in the neck for the people associated with travel and tourism in the Valley, and also the general public of both divisions of the state. “People in Leh who intend to visit Kashmir are put to huge inconvenience. They have to first go to Delhi by air and then reach Srinagar. This is because of the limited air connectivity between the two regions of the state,” said Shamim Ahmad Shah, Secretary of the J&K chapter of Travel Agents Association of India. Shah believes that the daily flights from Srinagar to Leh would end the inconvenience and also give considerable fillip to the tourism sector in Kashmir. “We have taken up this issue with the Government of India many times and even apprised the Prime Minister about it,” he told Greater Kashmir. “But no action has been taken so far. There is certainly a demand for operation of more flights between the two regions. If daily flights can operate between Delhi and Leh, what is the problem with Srinagar and Leh?” The J&K Tourism Alliance president, GM Dug, calls the limited connectivity as one of the major impediments to giving fillip to tourism in Kashmir. “If we talk of the past, tourism originated in Leh via Srinagar-either by road or by air. But today, if a tourist intends to visit both Srinagar and Leh, he is not able to do so because of the limited air connectivity. And in the process the tourists are deprived of seeing the diverse attractions in both the regions,” he said. Dug asserted that with daily New Delhi-Leh connectivity, Srinagar is getting bypassed. “Tourists who want to visit Leh from Srinagar are not able to do so. Firstly the weekly flight mostly has local passengers of Leh and Valley on board. Next, the tourists don’t want to visit Leh for a week. If there were a daily flight from Srinagar to Leh, they would certainly love to visit the place and return in a day or two,” Dug told Greater Kashmir, asserting that they had requested the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to increase the connectivity between the two regions. The problem, Dug said, gets compounded in the wake of “disturbing” Srinagar-Leh highway which remains cut-off for most part of a year. “There are many tourists who don’t want to travel to Leh by road given its high-altitude,” he said. “So they could prefer a flight which is not available. It is better if the state government presses for increasing the frequency of the flights between the two regions so that both people and the tourism industry are benefited. And this would give a considerable fillip to the tourism sector which in turn means more economy for the state.” According to sources, a number of commercial airlines are interested in operating from Srinagar to Leh. “But they are being told that it is not a commercially viable venture which is completely baseless. How can we buy this argument without having actually experimented with it,” said station manager of a commercial airline, insisting not to be named. “This is what happened to the Srinagar-Dubai flight also. The domestic carrier can easily increase the frequency of its flights, if commercial airlines are not given go-ahead. But here everything is sabotaged in the name of security concerns and viability.”


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