TODAY -

Helicopter Service in Manipur

M Lakshmikumar *

Re-Launching ceremony of Manipur Heli Service at International Airport Imphal :: 21st August 2019
Manipur Heli Service at International Airport Imphal in August 2019 :: Pix - DIPR Manipur



A helicopter service for the State was launched for the first time on 19.9.2018. Such a useful service for the State Govt, as well as mankind providing emergency" during natural calamities, etc had to wait for so long unfortunately.

Besides, the Service is under the subsidy scheme of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Gol (75:25) which otherwise would be unaffordable for the State for such expensive transport service. Many in the State may be interested to know about the service - the background, the usefulness and the scope of the service, etc.

The idea of writing about the helicopter service in the State is basically to share and bring it before the public domain the efforts and the various issues and challenges that came up before the venture was actually rolled out finally as public transport service.

There may have been many such instances in the past where a civil servant has put in his best efforts before realization of his dreams on any given assignment/task but all may not have been successful. Today, when I hear the sound of helicopter hovering in the sky-I can't help but recall some chapter of the helicopter story.

The idea of introduction of helicopter service in the State was first mooted officially during the Development Seminar on Imphal East held on 18/10/2010 at Hotel Classic held under the sponsorship of Ministry of Home Affairs, Gol with active participation of the Ministry of D6NER, NEC and the State Govt with Deputy Commissioner, Imphal East as the Key player. I was DC/Imphal East (undivided) then.

In fact, air connectivity was one of the main topics and included in the recommendations of the Seminar. The main bottleneck of the undivided Imphal East was on poor air connectivity ie, taking a detour to Silchar then proceed to Jiribam by road was highlighted. Still worse, the Silchar-Jiri air service was withdrawn subsequently and not restored still.

Attempts by the Transport Dept, Govt of Manipur to restore air service for Imphal-Silchar sector was never addressed seriously by all concerned including-NEC and Ministry of Civil Aviation, GoI. People of Jiribam felt the step motherly treatment meted out to them very much. Though some succour exist in the form of taxi service many like old and those who could not endure or afford the arduous road journey of 220 kms it was an impossible option.

During the undivided Imphal East days it was an absurd situation as I as Deputy Commissioner of Imphal East had to catch Imphal-Silchar flight to reach Jiribam within the same district. People of Jiribam located another 220 kms from District Head quarters at Porompat always used to complain about the neglect by the State Govt.

The physical distance and the inconvenience of travel were two main challenges before the District Administration. I genuinely felt that if a chopper service is introduced for Jiribam then it would be a boon for the people there and a blessing for the District administration. Therefore, when the helicopter service was introduced finally it was a dream come true for the people of Jiribam.

The necessity of a helicopter service was felt by the State Govt intermittently. Perhaps', it was lack of opportunity and right kind of approach that the scheme had to wait for such a long time. I recall onqe a former Chief Minister in the course of a discussion had remarked "How much a helicopter would cost.

" At that time I was functioning as Joint Resident Commissioner, Manipur Bhawan, Delhi. Once I was posted as Spl Secretary (Transport) I started examining the prospects of introducing a helicopter service in the State which was a genuine requirement. During the course of examination I came across the helicopter subsidy scheme of the Ministry of Home Affairs, GoI which would entitle the State Govt, a certain subsidy ( 75:25). This was considered as the most viable and appropriate scheme for the State.

Hectic parleys began with MHA,GoI in the middle of 2013. A proposal accompanied by a scheme with details of proposed helicopter service, areas/stations to be covered, availability of helipads, other logistics and above all justification for starting such expensive venture was worked out and submitted.

Initially, the helicopter service was formulated to connect Imphal International Airport with Moreh, Tamenglong and Jiribam for which the respective AR Unit helipads had to be utilized and a new civilian helipad had to be constructed at Harinagar, Jiribam through the Manipur Police Housing Corporation.

The fare structure was worked Out @ Rs 3000/- for Imphal-Jiribam and Rs 2000/- per passenger per trip for Imphal-Tamenglong and Imphal-Moreh as per Cabinet approval of Rs 100/-per minute. The task of meeting the pre-requisite conditions including-getting approvals of the concerned Ministries of Home, Civil Aviation Ministries, concerned local Security Units, arrangement of hanger, negotiation with the Helicopter Service Operator, engagement of ground passenger Service Operator, etc, all turned out to be simply humongous.

The helicopter service proposal under the Subsidy Scheme of MHA (75:25) was approved with appointment of Pawan Hans Ltd on nomination basis to operate for the first six months within which Jender should be finalized and appoint another Operator as per MHA guidelines.

Under the Subsidy Scheme 75% of the total operating cost will be borne by MHA subject to a standard mode of calculation for a total of 744 hrs a year for the 12-seater Dauphin SA 365 N Helicopter. Finally, the helicopter service was launched under the banner of Manipur Heli Service on 19.9.2018 by Shri Biren Singh, Hon'ble Chief Minister who took the maiden flight to Jiribam.

The public responseto the newly introduced helicopter service was overwhelming - especially those at Jiribam. One can say that it was a giant step forward in bringing Jiribam closer to Imphal.That year I was so happy to see many ningols from Jiribam who belong to Imphal visiting Imphal by helicopter to participate in the Ningol Chakkouba here.

There was huge public outcry when helicopter service was suspended wef April, March, 2019 till it was re-launched on 19.8.2019 pending finaliza-tion of the tender formalities under process.Things were subsided once helicopter service resumed, wef, 19/8/2019 and cheers and smile to the people of these remote places was restored once again.

One must admit that the Manipur Heli Service has done a yeoman service to the State by taking another step forward in terms of air connectivity, providing emergency services and increasing mobility both for the State machinery and public.

The essential factor of good governance-be it transportation of medical team to Jiribam for surveillance during the high tide of COVID-19 or holding of Cabinet meetings at remote places - the Manipur Heli Service has been silently playing the role of a facilitator.

There is a lot of scope for improvement and streamlining the service. Whatever may be the view one can proudly say that a beginning has been made towards enhancing public mobility by introducing helicopter service into the connectivity network, that too, quite successfully.


* M Lakshmikumar wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer retired as Commissioner/Transport, Govt of Manipur and the article is based on some of his recollections of the activities leading to the final launching of Manipur Heli Service
This article was posted on February 01, 2021.


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