Helicopter hub in Guwahati to boost tourism in northeast

Guwahati, Aug 14 (IANS) The government has decided to turn Guwahati into a helicopter hub to promote tourism in the northeastern states, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma said on Friday.

“We have taken a decision to turn Guwahati into a helicopter hub and are acquiring a hangar at the airport there for this purpose,” Sharma told media persons here.

“This is part of our efforts to promote tourism in the eight northeastern states,” he said.

According to the minister, state-run Pawan Hans Helicopters will purchase new helicopters for this purchase.

He, however, did not specify the make of helicopters that would fly around tourists in the region because of the rugged terrain and connectivity problems.

Sharma also stated that the fares of the helicopter services would be fixed at the lowest possible limit.

“We do not want to make money from the helicopter services. We want to make profits from tourism,” he said.

The minister also said that the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati has been included in the government’s new Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (Prasad) tourism scheme under which 12 spiritual cities have been selected.

Kamakhya has been allocated around Rs.10 crore from the tourism ministry’s Rs.100-crore budget.

“Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, the Northeast Circuit has been allocated Rs.120 crore of which Rs.15 crore is meant for the development of Majuli island on the Brahmaputra river,” Sharma said.

The government, according to him, would coordinate with the Unesco to include Majuli in the World Heritage Sites list.

“There is enough material in Majuli to be included in the World Heritage Sites list,” he said.

The work of taking Majuli to the World Heritage Sites list will be through active participation of the state government but but under the supervision of the central government, according to the minister.

He also said the ministry of culture has set up a a new cultural centre in Manipur’s capital Imphal.

“This is apart from the one in Guwahati and will work to promote the rich culture of Manipur.”

On developing tourism infrastructure in the region, he said the government would build hotels and rest houses “through PPP mode if need be”.

Asked about the hindrances caused to the tourism sector by the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system that was in force in the three northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland to regulate entry of non-indigenous people, Sharma said the government was trying to make the process easier.

“We are trying to make the ILP process easier by making it online.”

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