Category Archives: Travel & Tourism

Work starts in Kolkata for India’s first under-river Metro tunnel

BY BAPPADITYA PAUL

IT was in 1984 that Kolkata had gifted India the country’s first Metro railway. Now, 33 years down the line, the City of Joy has added another first to India’s urban transportation landscape.

The public sector Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd today, 14 April 2017, commenced work on digging up under river Metro rail tunnels that will connect Howrah to Salt Lake via north Kolkata.

The 520 metre long twin river tunnels, passing under the Hooghly river, are part of East-West Metro Corridor that KMRCL is constructing since 2009. The 16.55 km Metro corridor is to run from Salt Lake Sector-V to Howrah Maidan.

Today morning, KMRCL organised a puja at Ramkrishnapur Ghat located opposite to Howrah railway station on Hooghly river bank, seeking blessings of the river God. Following this, a tunnel boring machine ceremoniously began the tunnelling work.

“This is happening for the first time in the country. We have made all necessary arrangements to ensure safety of our workers and complete the task smoothly,” project manager Virendra Kaul said.

The proposed tunnels will be dug about 90 feet or 18 metres below the Hooghly river. They will run from below Howrah station post office at Howrah station-end, to Armenian Ghat, at Kolkata-end, about a 1-km away from the business hub Burrabazar.

Of the two underwater tunnels, one is for Howrah-bound Metro trains; the other is for Salt Lake-bound trains. KMRCL officials said that 250 workers will be working on the tunnels on a daily basis.

The target is to place 10 concrete rings a day, each of which measures 1.5 metres. Project engineers said that at this rate they should be able to complete the 520 metre twin tunnels in the next three months, that is, by end June.

Once this happens, Kolkata would have added yet another feather to its glory. People, however, shall have to wait at least until 2020 to ride a Metro train passing below the Hooghly river.

KMRCL has plans to throw open a near 7 km stretch from Salt Lake to Phoolbagan, off Sealdah station, by end 2018. The stretch between Phoolbagan to Howrah Maidan via Sealdah shall have to wait for the work to get completed.

(Author is editor, NEWSMEN, Kolkata. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 14 April 2017.)

 

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Indian Railways scraps Mamata Banerjee PPP medical college plan

By bappaditya paul

RAILWAYS ministry has dropped the plan for upgrade of railway hospitals into medical colleges in public private partnership (PPP) as was announced by Mamata Banerjee in the 2009-10 Railways Budget.

This after the ministry later found out that the Medical Council of India rules did not permit PPP with government hospitals anywhere in the country. Indian Railways and all its wings are owned by the Central government.

The matter came to light on Friday when the minister of state for railways, Manoj Sinha, replied to a query put forward by CPI-M Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee.

Ritabrata had sought to know if the Railways has set up any medical college in West Bengal as was announced by then railways minister Mamata Banerjee in her Budget speech during the UPA-II regime.

Answering the query, Sinha replied: “The then Honourable Minister of Railways during her Budget speech 2009-10 had announced ‘Medical colleges are planned to be established attached to existing railway hospitals through PPP, to give higher education facilities to new generation of railway children.”

ritabrata-rajya-sabha-reply

“As per Medical Council of India rules, Public Private Partnership (PPP) with Government (Railway) hospital is not permitted. The Ministry have, therefore, dropped the proposal of setting up of Railway Medical Colleges.”  

Ritabrata posted on his Twitter handle minister Sinha’s printed reply, and wrote: “Ministry of Railways – setting up of Med Colleges by our CM is not permitted at all! D cat is out of d bag!!”

It may be recalled that Mamata Banerjee as the Railways minister in 2009-10 announced that she had plans to upgrade a number of railway hospital in West Bengal, including the Tapan Sinha Memorial Hospital of Metro Railway in Kolkata, into medical colleges.

West Bengal has a number of super speciality railway hospitals, namely, the BR Singh Hospital at Sealdah, Railway Orthopaedic Hospital at Howrah, Central Hospital Garden Reach, NF Railway Hospital at New Jalpaiguri etc. 

(Bappaditya Paul is editor NEWSMEN. This article first appeared on NEWSMEN on 12 March 2016.)

Work on Haldia – Varanasi waterway to start by February

Nitin Gadkari at MCC event

By bappaditya paul

WORK on the proposed national waterway project from Haldia to Varanasi will start by February next year, Union shipping, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said today (01 December 2015).

“The first phase work for the 1,620 km long waterway was to begin in December but it got delayed due to some issues. The work will now surely start in next two-three months,” the minister said speaking at a session organised by MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Oberoi Grand here this afternoon.

Gadkari said that as part of the project, 30 water ports will be developed between Haldia and Varanasi, and there will be three major hubs at Haldia, Sahebganj (Jharkhand) and Varanasi.

“We have tied up with an international expert agency for an early and effective implementation of the project. On completion, the waterway will offer a major boost to both goods and public transportation as the cost of water transport is much less as compared to road and rail,” the minister said.

He said that at present, water transportation in India is only 3-5 per cent of the total transportation. “Whereas, we have a 13,000 km riverine routes spread over 14 states. That’s why we are now focusing on developing waterways and the allied infrastructure.”

The Union minister also informed that a new dredging technology will be shortly introduced at the Kolkata Port in collaboration with the IIT Chennai and this will cut down the annual cost of dredging by about Rs 1,50 crore.

“Right now, Kolkata Port spends around Rs 450 per annum in dredging. The new technology will bring it down by anything between Rs 150-200 crore. The technology will be put in place in next one month,” he said.

Meanwhile, asked to comment on the recent arrests of three ISI suspects in Kolkata who had been associated with the Trinamool Congress in the past, Gadkari said that it was unfortunate that appeasement of terrorists was taking place due to vote bank.

“National security is not a question of politics and it should never be politicised. But unfortunately, the situation in the country is such that for vote-bank, appeasement of terrorists and terror organisations also happens,” Gadkari said on the side line of another event in the city this morning.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor, NEWSMEN. This report part appeared in NEWSMEN on 01 December 2015.)

Nobody’s Agenda     

Car on bad road

By bappaditya paul

BARAK Valley, the hub of Bengalis in Assam, was very tense this September.

Recovery of a buffalo horn in a temple near Silchar had caused communal tension in the three districts Valley that has near equal share of Hindu and Muslim populations.

BJP, still riding on the fast diminishing Modi Wave in that part of the world, was quick to act and en cash on the crisis by whipping up the Hindu sentiments.

It organised a bandh in Barak Valley on 29 September over administration’s alleged failure to act against the “desecration of the temple by Muslim mischief makers”. That was preceded by torching of vehicles and sporadic clashes in Silchar streets on 25-26 September in the immediate aftermath of the “desecration.”

Understandably, the offspring of Barak Valley, living away from home for bread or education etc, were all very worried. Because, when compared to the glitz and glamour of mainland India, they know, peace is the only treasure Barak Valley has.

You talk to people back home in Silchar, Karimganj or Hailakandi and most are apprehensive that in the run up to the Assam Assembly elections next year, such communal tension will rise.

BJP, in particular, is ever active to “awaken the dormant Hindu masses” over even a petty crime or road accident involving a Muslim. This could well be a strategy of the saffron party to galvanise support against the Congress. After all, going by the pervert adage ~ all is fair in love and war!

Yet, the question that bothers is, does the BJP really need to bank on Hindu “sentiments and pride” to throw out the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam? The answer simply lies in the roads most travelled, quite literally.

The roads in entire Barak Valley nowadays are such a hell that it will make people in Bihar feel proud over the potholed roads that they had to endure till 2008-09. This is true not only to the state roads; the condition of at least two National Highways passing through Barak Valley is nothing but a shame on India.

Bad Road

Take for example the Silchar – Imphal National Highway that runs from Badarpurghat to Jirighat in Assam’s territory. In literal terms, no road is left of this 74 km stretch; it is rather the amalgamation of hundreds of potholes.

The scene is same, or may be even worse, as regards the Silchar – Agartala highway via Karimganj. Assam portion of this highway runs from Malidhar on the Meghalaya border to Churaibari on Tripura border.

In contrast to the hellish state of the these two arterial roads, the condition of the Silchar – Aizwal, Doboka – Silchar (via Halflong) and Dhaleswar – Bhairabi  (via Hailakandi) National Highways are way better, albeit barring some select stretch.

The mystery behind this can be unraveled by some really easy statistics!

Of the 40 km stretch of Silchar – Aizwal highway that falls in Assam, 37 km is maintained by the Border Roads Organisation of the Centre and only 03 odd km rests with the Assam Public Works Department (National Highway division).

Thus it’s no wonder that the initial few km from Silchar to Aizwal is hell. The remaining major portion of the road is smooth, albeit it might not be at par with the metaphor Lalu Prasad once used involving Hema Malini.

As regards the 277 km Doboka – Silchar (via Halflong) highway: 246 km is with the National Highway Authority of India and only 31 km is with the Assam PWD (NH division). Most of the 31 km stretch that lies with the Assam PWD is in shambles.

The 89 km Dhaleswar – Bhairabi (via Hailakandi) National Highway is entirely under the Assam PWD. But it is in better shape and people give credit for this to the foul-mouthed Assam Congress minister Gautam Roy.

When it comes to the Assam portion of Silchar – Imphal National Highway, the entire 74 km stretch was brought under the Assam PWD (NH division) since 2007. The case is same as regards the 111 km Assam portion of the Silchar – Agartala highway via Karimganj. To say the least, these two roads are hell!

Yet, one would be shocked to find that this is a non issue for the Opposition political parties back there ~ be it the BJP or the All India United Democratic Front (AIDUF) led by perfume baron and Lok Sabha MP Badruddin Ajmal. Ironically, for the AIUDF, Barak Valley is a strong base and it even has a MP from Karimganj and a MLA from Katigora.

This is perhaps because, to make the hellish road condition an issue against Assam’s Congress government, the BJP and AIUDF would be required to do some homework and spend more energy than they are used to. And even after this, the dividend in elections will be uncertain as compared to the time-tested Hindu-Muslim narrative.

POST SCRIPT: A caveat is imperative here for the sons and daughters of Barak Valley living outside: please avoid visiting your homeland until the 2016 Assam poll nears and Tarun Gogoi government had carried out some patchwork on whatever is left of the roads in Barak Valley. Else, you run the risk of losing the longing for going back to your roots ever again!

Instead sit back in Delhi, Bangalore or Kolkata and watch Congress Silchar Lok Sabha MP Sushmita Dev discuss national issues on NDTV and Times Now, and take pride in the fact that someone from your backward land has got this opportunity. But please, don’t expect her to talk about bad roads back home: after all the bar of a LLM from King’s College London is much above the mundane roads!

Also, do give a like to the photograph on Facebook of Badruddin Ajmal feeding bananas to stray cows in Mumbai at a time when the intolerance debate is very hot in the country.

And if you don’t hear much about the BJP Silchar MLA Dilip Pal, rest assured, he is busy holding Hindu Jagaran Rallies to deter the desecration of any more temples in Barak Valley.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor, NEWSMEN. This report first appeared in NEWSMEN on 29 November 2015.)

Kolkata airport’s runway to be closed for 6 months for repair, but airlines put a condition

Airport Runway

By bappaditya paul

KOLKATA airport management has decided to close down the airport’s main runway for a six month long repair exercise beginning 1 November, but the airlines have put a condition for this.

The Airlines Operators’ Committee (AOC) at Kolkata airport says that the authorities shall first have to waive the restriction from the A-Taxi Track located next to the secondary runway, before undertaking the repair exercise.

The restriction now in place, bars aircraft movements on the A-Taxi Track when another flight is landing on or taking off from the secondary runway. AOC maintains that unless the rule is relaxed, the flight schedule in Kolkata will suffer and this is the last thing the airlines can afford.

Kolkata airport is owned by the public sector firm Airports Authority of India.

According to Ashoke Srivastava, the deputy director of Kolkata airport, they are all geared up to start the resurfacing work for the 3,800 meter long main runway from 1 November and the work will take at least six months to complete.

Resurfacing primarily involves laying a fresh coat of bituminous over the entire runway and the exercise is overdue for Kolkata’s main runway by over four years now. Together with the installation of a CAT-III-B approach lighting system, the exercise is estimated to cost around Rs 86 crore.

“As a result of the resurfacing work, we will completely close down the main runway from 1 November – 20 November. After this, the runway will remain closed for 11 hours daily during daytime for the remaining of the six months,” Srivastava said.

“But this 11 hour closure that we have planned from 20 November might be extended to 24 hours a day if need arises. A decision will be taken on this on 17 November when we will review the work progress,” he added.

Flight operations to and from Kolkata airport will be maintained during this six month period on the secondary runway, which is a little shorter in length. But if a flight faces an emergency mid-air, it will be redirected to Bhubaneswar (if it is a domestic flight) and to Lucknow or Dhaka (if it is an international flight).

Maintaining that there would be no major flight disruptions due to the closure of the main runway, Srivastava said, at best there might be some rescheduling. “But this rescheduling will depend on the individual airlines and not us.”

But AOC chairman Sarvesh Gupta said that there was no question of them tweaking the flight timings.

“The winter schedule is already published and the airlines have sold tickets. Hence, there is no question of us making any changes to the flight timings. Instead, we have made it clear that the runway resurfacing work can begin only if the restriction on A-Taxi Track is waived during the period.”

Gupta added that he had made this very clear to the airport management during the last meeting with the AOC. “I had had asked them the write to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) seeking the relaxation, but they have been very tardy to do so till now.”

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This report first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 17 October 2015.) 

Not Digha, make Siliguri the Goa of Bengal

Opinion Honda Activa ad 2

By bappaditya paul

IN JULY Honda Motorcycle released a television commercial for its Activa 3G scooter. The still is from the one minute ad, filmed by the Indian arm of international Japanese advertising company Dentsu Marcom.

The ad kicks off with a group of people singing the retro hit Jhum jhum kauwa bhi dholak bajayacheel cheel chillaake…arey wah wah wah in a moving train that is passing through a picturesque hill terrain.

It is then that a singer spots the new Activa 3G passing by with a father-daughter duo on ride and the jingle is instantly twisted to Activah Vaah Vaah. The Activa and the train move together for a while amidst greenery and then bid adieu while crossing another Activa with a couple waving with joy.

Now, you must be thinking why the hell this article is spoiling your leisure by narrating a TV commercial! More so when many have seen the advertisement umpteen times.

For those who don’t know yet, the advertisement has been shot at the Siliguri end of Kurseong hill and the train is heritage Toy Train of Darjeeling. The places it shows include Garidhura, Dudhia, Tindharia and Sukna, which is barely 11 km from Siliguri town.

But then that’s not a big deal! Several Hindi movies have been shot in the past in Darjeeling. The last famous one was Barfi in 2012.

Those of you who have been to Goa, every now and then discover in TV ads and Hindi movies that several of them have been shot in Goa, in places like Fontainhas, Calangute beach, Fort Aguada and so on.

Compare the scale of ad or film shoots in Goa vis-à-vis Siliguri-Darjeeling and you will figure out, the beach capital of India is far ahead.

One simple reason for this is Goa’s proximity to Mumbai (Bollywood) ~ it is 609 km by road and an hour by flight. Siliguri on the other hand is located 2,246 km away. Going by the economy of film production, a film crew thus is unlikely to choose Siliguri over Mumbai.

There is another reason though. The pro-film shoot infrastructure and environment that Goa offers is unparalleled in India. Be it the large number of hotels, resorts, all-weather roads, a clean city and above all, a friendly people and political culture.

Compare this to the grater Siliguri. Despite a few star-rated hotels coming up off late, it till date will not be able to host high-class accommodation to 500 people at a time.

Most of the arterial roads such as Hill Cart Road, Bidhan Road and Sevoke Road remain chock-a-block for most of the times. Last week’s addition to this was massive water-logging ~ at least 20 per cent of which was the result of poor conservancy service.

Then, there are political rallies and protests every now and then that make commuting in Siliguri a real hazard. Sometimes, the Siliguri plains also compete with the ever restive Darjeeling Hills in calling snap bandhs.

Now the obvious question is: should Siliguri give up its political consciousness, bury the voice of dissent, throw away small-time vendors and transport operators from its streets so to make way for film shoots or song and dance, as many would love to call it?

The reply is: no. Just regulate all of them to make Siliguri a better place to live in and visit.

To begin with, in the short-run, earmark fixed stoppages for city-autos which are a major cause for traffic snarl and the noise they generate make one feel running away from Siliguri.

For the long-run, phase out the city-autos by placing an embargo on new permits. Do not wait for a Calcutta High Court to do this as it had been in the case of pushing out diesel-petro auto-rickshaws from Kolkata.

More small buses for city service, similar to the ones introduced with JnNURM funds in the past two-three years, will be a good replacement for city-autos.

A blanket ban on manual rickshaws from entering S F Road, Kachari Road, Hill Cart Road, Bidhan Road and Sevoke Road is another step needed to decongest Siliguri. Believe you me, people in developed cities will find it absurd on seeing that Siligurians want a rickshaw to commute within a half km radius of Bidhan Markat and Seth Srilal Market!

To compensate the rickshaws, reassign them to internal and para routes where people struggle to get one now. There will be hiccups initially, but one can stay assured by looking at the example in Kolkata that poor rickshaw pullers will not be robbed of livelihood

Next, earmark a centralised venue in the town for all sorts of protests, instead of hitting the Hill Cart Road and Hashmi Chowk that are a hot favourite for such manifestations in Siliguri as is Esplanade in Kolkata.

For example, Bagha Jatin ground can serve as the central venue for all demonstrations and protest gatherings. Given the spurt in media and the corresponding need for news, politicians and civil society groups can rest assured that reporters and cameras will hunt them even there.  

Next comes the issue of improving and creating infrastructure that can en-cash on Siliguri’s superb geographic position. It is such a lovely place where, if you are apprehensive of being booked for traffic violation now; a 10-minute drive later to the northeast direction, you should be careful of bumping on wild elephants!

Bengal government has taken two key steps towards this: the Gazaldoba Tourism Hub (about 20 km from Siliguri) and the Animal Safari Park at Shorea on the outskirts of Siliguri at an estimated cost of Rs 225 crore.

These two projects, if implemented as planned, will offer high-class accommodation to visitors and open up a new window for wildlife and leisure tourism in Siliguri.

They have the potential to draw ad and film shoots from Tollygunge film industry in a more organised and frequent manner. This is possible only if all stake holders, especially the local politicians, administration and hospitality industry work hand-in-hand.

From this point of view, instead of Digha as Mamata Banerjee desires, Siliguri has all the potential to become the Goa of Bengal. Surely, this is not too much to wish for on World Tourism Day!

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This article first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 27 September 2015.) 

Ladies Corner

Vidya Balan Collage

By bappaditya paul

MANY of you, who even have the remotest connection to Bengal and are active on social sharing media such as WhatsApp and Facebook, must have come across the image featured above, several times in the recent past.

This a collage of two different photographs of Bollywood actress Vidya Balan ~ the first one from a photo-shoot and the second one a still from her 2007 box office hit Bhool Bhulaiya.

While the image is going round in social media for fun, it aptly makes a pointed comment on the dire state of rail travel in passenger trains that connect Kolkata to the suburbs.

Scores of people travel every day in local trains over the Sealdah and Howrah rail divisions, to commute to office and work and then return home. But the dearth of sufficient number of trains, make them commute like hordes of lesser mortals packed in a box.

Over time, this has become a common scene on all trains plying to and from Kolkata, especially during the morning office hours and the evening home return hours. The scene in the trains on Sealdah-Bongaon, Sealdah-Dankuni, Sealdah-Barasat and Sealdah-Ranaghat is worst, to say the least.

Late running of trains, which has become a routine in the past few months, is only worsening the situation. Men literally struggle to get a toe hold on the trains; women find it no less than being molested when they travel in a general compartment.

In such a dismal state, the ladies special trains ~ Matribhoomi Local ~ introduced by Mamata Banerjee when she was railway minister, has been a relief of sort for thousands of women who need to travel daily for office and education.

Thus, it is no wonder that they reacted sharply by resorting to rail blockades at several stations in North 24-Parganas district when the railway threw open some compartments of ladies special trains for men. The decision has now been repealed with effect from 24 August on the face of the vehement opposition.

The opposition was such that violent retaliation by male commuters had failed to make the women backtrack, be it from their demand or from the rail tracks, quite literally. And mind you! This is without the presence of a political banner over their head, in a state where politics is a part of every aspect of life.

True, the women have reclaimed their exclusive claim to the ladies special trains, but male passengers are now accusing them of demanding too much of comfort in public transport.

But does the accusation hold merit?

To examine this, we need to have a relook at Eastern Railway’s recent move vis-à-vis allowing men to travel in ladies special trains.

Going by this, in case of 12-coach ladies special trains, 6 middle coaches were opened to men. This is in addition to the two coaches that have all through been reserved for vendors.

In case of 10-coach trains, four middle coaches were made available to male commuters, beside the two more coaches that were marked for vendors. Likewise, in case of 9-coach trains, men were allowed to board three middle coaches and here too, two coaches have all along been reserved for vendors.

Thus, the move effectively left women passengers with only four coaches reserved for them in the ladies special trains, thus screwing up the very purpose of running a ladies special. When the women realised that they would now have to jostle for a space in trains run in their name; they took to the tracks on justified grounds.

But here’s a counter to this explanation! Why it is then that there was no fuss from the women passengers when the railway had permitted men to travel in ladies special trains in the Sealdah south section and in Howrah division, almost a year ago?

There are two answers to this.

In Howrah division, the number of local trains is higher than Sealdah. Besides, passengers in Howrah have the additional option to travel in general compartments of long distance trains that halt at most stations along the Howrah chord and main line.

As to why the women commuters in Sealdah south section did not protest the dilution of ladies special trains, one would need to study the class character of the women in South 24-Parganas.

A major chunk of women passengers in Sealdah south, whose main arteries run across the South 24-Pargans district, belong to economically and educationally weaker strata of the society. Most of them travel to Kolkata to sell agriculture produce. While they are used to the hardships of life, lack of education limit their capacity to protest.

This is not to suggest that there are no educated and office-going women in South 24-Pargans or that they do not travel by trains. But the number is much less.

In comparison, North 24-Pargans district has many industrial belts dotting around the railway network and the women who take the trains from there are mostly educated, at least a vast majority of them are.

They travel to go to office ~ both public and private, or for education. These women are aware of their rights and have the voice to protest. This is exactly what they recently did to oppose the dilution of ladies special trains.

It is true that the men in Bengal travel in trains in more difficult situation than the women and to reduce their plight, there is a need to increase the number of trains and run them punctually.

Curtailing on the women’s public space, what Eastern Railway had tried to do, is certainly not the answer.

(Bappaditya Paul is editor of NEWSMEN, West Bengal, India. This article first appeared on www.newsmen.in on 22 August 2015) 

Bengal eyes to double foreign tourists this year

HIRING OGILVY & MATHER FOR PUBLICITY DRIVE 

Bengal Tourism logo

By bappaditya paul

THE NUMBER OF FOREIGN TOURISTS visiting West Bengal is expected to touch 28 lakh (2.8 million) in the current fiscal year ending March 2016, state tourism minister Bratya Basu told the West Bengal Assembly last week.

This is notwithstanding the alleged gang-rape of a Japanese tourist at Digha and other places in the state by a group of touts-turned-guides in November 2014, which many feared would deter foreigners from visiting Bengal.

According to Mr Basu, 5.04 crore (50.04 million) tourists visited Bengal in 2014 as compared to 2.67 crore (20.67 million) in 2013. Apart from the overall growth, the number of foreign tourists also rose to 14 lakh (1.4 million) from 12.45 lakh (1.245 million) in 2013, registering a growth of 12.44 per cent.

Tourist

“Our estimate is that the overall number of tourists, as well as the number of foreign tourists, will get doubled this fiscal year (2015-2016),” the minister said. “This has been possible because of the high budget allocation in the past four years that led to improvement in tourism infrastructure in the state. The focus now is on medical, film and religious tourism.”

To keep up with the growth pace, Bengal government will soon embark on a publicity drive emulating the Vibrant Gujarat campaign and the famed private advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather was being hired for this, he said.

In fact, of the Rs 317 crore (3,170 million) budget approved by the state legislature for tourism department this fiscal year, 70 crore (700 million) has alone been earmarked for publicity and promotion.

In 2011-12 the budget allocation for tourism was Rs 44 crore (440 million), in 2012-13 Rs 90 crore (900 million), in 2013-14 Rs 120 crore (1,200 million) and in 2014-15 it was Rs 223 crore (2,230 million).

Air India starts flight service to Bengal’s greenfield Andal airport

Bengal Youth Affairs Minister Aroop Biswas (in white panjabi) and Labour Minister Moloy Ghatak (in yellow panjabi) along with Bengali film actors in front of the inaugural flight at Kazi Narul Airport at Andal near Asansol on Monday.
Bengal Youth Affairs Minister Aroop Biswas (in white panjabi) and Labour Minister Moloy Ghatak (in yellow panjabi) along with Bengali film actors in front of the inaugural flight at Kazi Narul Islam Airport at Andal near Asansol on Monday.

AN AIR INDIA FLIGHT on Monday became the first passenger flight to touch down and take off from the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport at Andal near Asansol, thus marking the begining of commercial flight services at the Bengal’s first-ever private greenfield airport.

Air India’s subsidiary Alliance Air operated a 48-seater ATR aircraft from Kolkata to the Andal airport with some ministers of the Bengal government and local cine stars onboard the inaugural flight. The same group was aboard the return flight from Andal.

Andal airport has been developed by Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL) in collaboration with Singapore based Changi Airports International (CAI). The 650-acre airport is located about 170 km away from Kolkata by road.

Now on, Alliance Air will operate flights between Kolkata and Andal on all days a week barring Friday. Flight AI-9713 will leave Kolkata at 5.05 pm to reach Andal at 5.40 pm. The return flight AI-9714 will depart from Andal at 6.05 pm arriving in Kolkata at 6.40 pm. 

The flights will save passengers from Durgapur the time-consuming road journey to Kolkata and provide them onward air connectivity to Air India’s Delhi and Mumbai flights the same evening. BAPL said in a statement that for the onward connectivity, they would facilitate a through check-in. 

The flights will meet a long-standing need of the residents of Asansol-Durgapur belt boasting power-intensive industries such as mining, iron and steel, metalwork, engineering, petrochemicals, and telecommunications. 

PM take off for Bengal’s pvt greenfield airport

UP ON THE WIND: Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wound up a two-day visit of Bengal, took off for Delhi from the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport at Andal near Asansol town on Sunday afternoon.
UP ON THE WIND: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday wound up his two-day visit to Bengal and took off for Delhi on a special Air Force plane from Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport at Andal near Asansol town in Burdwan district. Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport is a private greenfield airport developed in collaboration with the Changing Airport authorities of Singapore, and it will be thrown open to commercial passenger flight from 18 May. To begin with, Alliance Air, a subsidiary of national carrier Air India, will operate a daily service from and to Kolkata using a 42-seater ATR aircraft.