By Khelen Thokchom
Imphal, Jun 10 : There is hope of regular air services between Imphal and Myanmar, with an Imphal-based private company recently signing an agreement with Golden Myanmar Airlines.
The first chartered flight from Mandalay, after signing the agreement, will land in Imphal on June 27.
This is the result of initiatives taken by KB Enterprises to improve trade and cultural relations between the two countries and also promote tourism in Manipur.
This will be the second chartered flight from Myanmar to land at Imphal airport since November last year.
A 180-seater flight carrying a 100-member delegation from Myanmar, including two chief ministers landed at Imphal airport on their way to attend the 10-day long Sangai festival, an annual tourism festival held in Imphal during the last 10 days every November.
The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also signed a bilateral air services agreement in 2012 with Myanmar.
With Manipur having border trade with Myanmar, many private bodies are working on improving ties between Manipur and the neighbouring country. KB Enterprises’ initiative is one of the efforts.
In addition to this, there are many Manipuris settled in Mandalay. The Manipuris who were taken away by the Burmese soldiers for use as forced labourers during their invasion of Manipur from 1819 to 1825, were made to settle there. There are also many Tamil and Nepali people who live in Mandalay and they are expected to take advantage of the flight to visit Imphal, where they have relatives.
Proprietor of KB Enterprises, P. Kunjabihari, said the 67-seater ATR-72 model would land on June 27 at Tulihal airport in Imphal and the consul general of India at Mandalay agreed to issue visas for Myanmarese willing to take the flight to Imphal.
He said the airfare was fair enough as one passenger would spend Rs 14,500 for a round trip to Mandalay.
At present, the only means to reach Mandalay from Imphal is to take the 578km long Imphal-Mandalay route via the state’s border township of Moreh.
To facilitate regular chartered flight services between Imphal and Mandalay, the state transport department has proposed to chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh to reduce the value-added tax imposed on aviation turbine fuel.
At present, the state government charges 20 per cent VAT on aviation turbine fuel.
State transport secretary M. Lakshmikumar said regular chartered flights would boost the tourism sector.
He said state chief secretary P.C. Lawmkunga would hold a series of meetings to facilitate the Imphal-Mandalay air service and make it a success with officials of the Airports Authority of India.
Kunjabihari said his company sent proposals to Air India and Indigo for starting chartered flight services between Imphal and Mandalay but got no response.