Helicopter services on selected routes in J&K

Far flung areas in Jammu and Kashmir which are found wanting in accessibility to hassles free mediums of connectivity between different districts especially during rainy and winter months and at times needing desperately a fastest mode of connectivity in emergency, need air connectivity. Connecting through air and operating of aviation services in the shape of civilian aircraft is neither feasible nor commercially viable due to absence of demand from the people of such areas nor is it possible to provide the necessary infrastructure for operating of such flights. The only alternative being helicopter services , however, is again beyond the affordability of majority of common people though the need at various occasions for it being direly felt as the same being the only alternative.
There is no denying the fact that in severe emergencies , Army helicopters come to the rescue of the people who either are held up en-route their destinations on account of a heavy snowfall or a massive landslide or whatever reason but since that cannot be on a consistent , if not permanent basis, operation of helicopter services becomes necessary . To enable the needy avail of such services, Government of India provides substantial subsidy and to some extent the UT Government of Jammu and Kashmir too shares the financial burden . Five such far flung and hilly areas having been identified in the UT are brought under the ambit of such subsidised helicopter services.
It is heartening to note and underlining the concerns of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs for such otherwise normally inaccessible routes to having accorded its approval for extension of such services for next five years . That would not only promote internal air connectivity between different scattered areas in many districts but is likely to prove as a great relief to the concerned people awaiting such extension. It is pertinent to note that to ensure ”common” affordability of availing of such services, subsidy to the extent of 75 percent of total cost of operation of a service has been decided to be provided. From this , of course, passenger recovery could be adjusted or flat 20 percent of actual operation , whichever is more would be provided. The total subsidy expected to be paid by the union Government for the period 2021 to 2026 could cross Rs.22 crore. Residual cost, however, expectedly could be borne by the UT administration.
Since the extension now is till the year 2026, whether some additional routes would be included in providing such services, the possibilities appear to be bright although the number of services and the flying hours could be adjusted and rescheduled under the approved financial outlays. Evacuation in trying moments from such difficult areas especially in medical emergencies and other extreme circumstances for which primarily these services are meant need not only to be made available in deserving cases but the district administration must ensure that the service operators respond promptly and quickly to the calls of the needy people. For that, while starting the tendering process those operators with impeccable record of providing prompt and timely services alone should get preference. Safety protocol and ascertaining the track record in that area of a particular service provider too is necessary.
The Government having allowed even the private sector to operate such helicopter services on the identified routes or additional routes in Jammu and Kashmir is again a step taken towards promoting air connectivity between the identified five or more routes but that all depends on the volume of demand to make such operations economically viable . Since the subsidy being confined only to the common residents of such identified routes, VIPs, tourists and officers of central and UT Governments have to bear the actual fares payable. Familiarity, popularity and realising the utilities of such services could push the demand up making it possible to have such services to be provided by the private sector too throughout the year.