From carrying poultry to medicines, the first dedicated air cargo service in the private sector in the Northeast was launched today.
The air cargo service, operated by Rudra GTL Aviation Pvt. Ltd which has bookings done for one year, kicked off with a flight from Calcutta to Imphal.
“It is the first-ever dedicated air cargo service in the Northeast and the market is an untapped one,” Manosijj Roy, director of the Rudra GTL, told The Telegraph.
Rudra GTL, which is a joint venture initiative by Rudra Group of Companies and GTL Group of Companies, has wet-leased two ATR-72 aircraft from Deccan Cargo Express and Logistics Limited. Under the arrangement, Deccan provides the aircraft, complete crew, maintenance and insurance to the lessee.
The flight from Calcutta took off at 12.42pm today and touched down at Imphal at 2.20pm. The consignment included day-old chicks, medicines, essential drugs, betel leaf and garments.
Each aircraft, which has six compartments with pressurised air-conditioned cabin, has the capacity to carry seven tonnes of consignment.
“The market is a huge and untapped one and to prove it we have got bookings for the next year,” Roy said.
The cargo service will be on these routes — Calcutta-Guwahati-Calcutta, Calcutta-Imphal-Calcutta, Calcutta-Agartala-Calcutta and Calcutta-Guwahati-Bagdogra.
Roy said significant investments were pouring into the region and major companies were taking interest.
“An effective communication system was due for a long time,” he said.
Sending consignments to Manipur by road has been difficult with blockades becoming the order of the day.
Manipur was hit hard by a 120-day economic blockade of its two national highways, which began on August 1 following a demand for a separate district by the people in Sadar Hills which saw the prices of essential goods skyrocketing and life-saving medicines in short supply. The blockade was lifted on November 28.
“It will be a daily cargo service barring on Sundays,” he said.
Guwahati airport is the busiest in the Northeast with 42-45 flights taking off daily. The airport handles 7,000 passengers daily on an average. During peak season, the figure goes up to over 10,000. Apart from the region, it is the sixth busiest in the country.
Sources said air cargo service is growing at a fast rate and the Indian air cargo industry is expected to grow at 20 per cent per annum.
The Centre has been taking a lot of interest in developing civil aviation in the Northeast with the DoNER ministry coming out with a policy document on Multi-utility Aviation in the Northeastern Region — An Alternative Innovative Model for Hastening Development.
It points out that the “chicken’s neck” that connects the Northeast with mainland India only connects two states, Assam and Sikkim, and that this narrow strip of land is choked not just by a high density population, but by roads, rail lines, cables, oil pipelines and power transmission lines.
“Therefore, inclusiveness of the region with the rest of India is physically possible only through air service,” the document states.
The civil aviation ministry has in principle agreed to develop Guwahati, Agartala, Imphal and Dibrugarh airports as regional hubs.