Much hyped helicopter service to tourist destinations, Air Safari on statements only

Operators want subsidy, Govt yet to take decision

*No decision on resumption of chopper service to 4 distts

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Feb 27: The much-hyped helicopter service to tourist destinations to boost tourism in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has remained confined to the official statements for want of concrete steps from the Government. Moreover, there is no decision on resumption of chopper service to Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch and Rajouri, which was stopped all of a sudden several years back.
The then Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor Baseer Khan in a high-level meeting held on July 9, 2021 had announced that the tourism sector in Jammu and Kashmir will undergo a sea change with various tourist destinations in both the regions getting helicopter services in very near future.
In the meeting attended by Commissioner Civil Aviation, Secretary Tourism Department, Managing Director Tourism Development Corporation, Directors of Tourism and others, it was stated that this move will boost tourism in Jammu and Kashmir and add interesting experience to the visit of tourists.
Stating that Tourism Department was looking at helicopter services to build connectivity between important destinations and attract more visitors, the Advisor had directed the officers to identify a few tourist destinations from both Jammu as well as Kashmir so that helicopter services could be started on pilot basis.
It was also revealed in the meeting that directions have already been given by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha for mapping out the tourist destinations for pressing in the helicopter services and officers were told to do proper groundwork regarding the basic infrastructure and manpower required for the purpose.
“However, despite lapse of several months there is no headway on the announcement mainly because of lack of interest from the Government, which otherwise was supposed to chalk out a strategy in this regard for roping in the service providers”, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
They disclosed that some helicopter service providers had evinced interest in starting service to different tourist destinations and even approached the concerned authorities with their proposals but for want of Government’s decision about providing subsidy no headway could be made till date.
Quoting an example, sources informed that some service providers conveyed to the Government that helicopter service to tourist destination of Bhaderwah will cost around Rs 20,000 and if the Government provides some subsidy they can think of going ahead but no decision was conveyed to them. “Due to this, the much-hyped announcement about starting helicopter service to tourist destinations to boost tourism in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has remained confined to the official statements”, they added.
Moreover, there is no decision on the resumption of helicopter service to mountainous districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Kishtwar and Doda, which was stopped abruptly few years back.
The chopper service to Rajouri and Poonch from Jammu was launched on September 13, 2017 by the then PDP-BJP Coalition Government with much fanfare and it was officially stated at that time that helicopter service will connect the people of these districts with rest of the State especially during adverse weather conditions besides giving flip to the tourism in Poonch and Rajouri.
Similarly, the chopper service to Doda from Jammu was launched on October 24, 2017 and it was stated that this facility would be of immense help for the people for visit to winter capital especially during harsh weather conditions.
Initially, the helicopter service remained operational for some time but later the same turned out to be damp squib mainly because of the condition on number of passengers, sources said, adding “as per the Memorandum of Understanding the service provider was supposed to operate the chopper only when minimum five passengers were available for one sortie at a time and this clause acted as spoilsport”.
“If the Government seriously wants to press helicopter service to different tourist destinations it should prepare a concrete action plan and then start holding discussion with the service providers instead of merely issuing statements”, sources stressed.