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Delhi-Bathinda flight-Harsimrat Kaur Badal asks centre to review its assessment

Chandigarh, (Gurpreet) – Former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal today asked the central government to review its assessment that the Delhi-Bathinda flight was not viable with the carrier conducting the flight disclosing it had an average occupancy rate of eighty per cent before it was discontinued post-Covid, even she told the Punjab government to release its partial funding share of Rs three crore per year to ensure this facility could be restarted at the earliest.

Mrs Harsimrat Badal, who had raised this issue in parliament also, said the central government had wrongly claimed in parliament that the Delhi – Bathinda flight was not commercially viable due to limited passengers and low yields as well as an end to subsidy support under the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) scheme after a period of three years. Mrs Badal said this information was in direct contrast to a recent statement of Alliance Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, which had claimed that the Delhi-Bathinda flight started by it in December 2016 had witnessed an average annual occupancy rate of eighty per cent. “The airline, which used to run the flight thrice a week pre-Covid, now wants to run a daily flight on this route. Keeping in view this ground reality, I request the civil aviation ministry to review its report on the commercial viability of the Delhi-Bathinda route and sanction daily flights on this route at the earliest”.

Mrs Badal said it was condemnable that the Punjab government had also abrogated its responsibility and was not making any effort to ensure the flight was restarted. She said the State’s liability was only limited to a twenty per cent subsidy of twenty per cent of the Viability Gap Funding (VGF). “This comes to around Rs three crore per year. This is an extremely small amount to ensure this scheme, which provides much needed service to a large number of people from the Malwa region, is not shelved permanently. Finance minister Manpreet Badal, who is a legislator from the city, should release the State share under the VGF scheme immediately. Simultaneously Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh should take up the need to renew the Delhi- Bathinda flight with the centre besides ensuring the VGF is extended by another four years as per provisions contained in the scheme”.

The Bathinda MP said a lot of effort had gone into not only establishing the Bathinda airport under the leadership of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal but also starting the maiden flight to Delhi. “The flight has over the years provided a vital link to the national capital for people of Bathinda as well as even those from neighbouring areas. It has facilitated investors as well as those working in the HMEL refinery, AIIMS, central University as well as air force and central government employees. I urge both the central and state governments to ensure this link is not discontinued and efforts put in by the previous SAD led government to bring Bathinda on the national stage do not go in vain”.