Prohibitive Airfares Hit Students, Patients In Kashmir

1 April 2014
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: With airfares continue to remain high, serious concern was today expressed by local patients, students and traders appealing the government to intervene.The affected people said the air travel from Srinagar to Jammu or Delhi or back has become unaffordable. Chairman NLCO and noted tourism player Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo said: 'It is not just the tourists and the tourism industry of Kashmir, which have been hit by the steep airfares. Among the affected are our students and patients.' 'In case of patients and students the situation is even worse as they have to take some other members of the family along,' he said. Wangnoo said: 'The government needs to intervene into the issue. The airlines cannot be allowed to take flyers for a ride,' he said. Greater Kashmir received complaints from different places in the Valley with people complaining against steep airfares. Fehmeeda, a resident of Soura has decided against moving to Delhi for her treatment because she could not afford air travel. 'She is suffering from Kidney ailment and we had planned to take her to Delhi for specialized treatment. But now after she came to know that for three persons air travel to Delhi will cost more than Rs 60,000 we decided to postpone her treatment,' said Javaid Ahmad, Fehmeeda's son. Ahmad said that total cost of treatment at Delhi for her mother was pegged at around Rs 50,000 but to and fro air travel for them would have cost Rs 1,20,000. Not only the patients but students mostly who during this time of the year go to states like Delhi, Bangalore or Kota for coaching or appearing in different national level entrance tests are a worried lot. 'For students belonging to middle income group paying Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 is huge amount and that too on only one side travel,' Jibran Ahmad, a student said, adding that state government and Chief Minister should intervene in the matter. However, experts said that the state government should approach Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) instead of Civil Aviation Ministry. 'DGCA is the appropriate agency which can direct the airlines operating in the state to fix upper ceiling on airfares,' said Former Director General Tourism, Muhammad Ashraf. He suggested that state government and civil society should learn lessons from the people of Delhi-Mumbai who after facing similar problems approached DGCA. 'As a result of which private airlines flying on the Delhi- Mumbai segment had set a cap on the maximum fare that they can charge fliers.