Post-Air India privatisation, paramilitary forces encounter seat availability crisis on vital routes

Since Air India was privatised, personnel in J&K, regions affected by the Naxal attacks, and the Northeastern states have had to deal with challenges related to seat acquisition on crucial routes, which has resulted in coordination and budgetary obstacles.

Following Air India’s privatisation, the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have been suffering hurdles due to the lack of a state-owned carrier. Particularly, they are having trouble acquiring seats on approved price bands and dealing with issues related to coordination and funding for air courier services.

The Home Ministry made a significant change to the convoy rule after the terror attack in Pulwama in January 2019, which resulted in the deaths of forty Jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). This change allowed low-ranking personnel to travel by air on certain routes, such as Delhi-Srinagar, Srinagar-Delhi, Jammu-Srinagar, and Srinagar-Jammu.

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However, since privatisation, officials have disclosed that it has become more difficult to get seats on flights, particularly on the vital Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi route, because of capacity constraints. Paramilitary forces now have difficulty travelling, especially those stationed in Jammu & Kashmir and the northeastern states.

Seat availability is a recurring problem that was discussed at a recent meeting presided over by CRPF Director General Anish Dayal. Concerns about coordination issues and financial barriers between different places were raised by officials regarding the difficulties air courier services are facing. These issues affect personnel stationed in J&K, areas hit by Naxal attacks, and the Northeastern states.

A primary concern brought up during the deliberations was the limited accessibility of Air Charter Service (ACS) on the Delhi-Kolkata-Aizawl route, which is offered exclusively on Saturdays. This limitation presents difficulties for employees who need greater flexibility with their travel schedules.

Moreover, air courier services on the Dibrugarh-Guwahati-Delhi route have been suspended, resulting in considerable disruption for individuals travelling from difficult places.

Authorities also reported disruptions on the Kolkata-Imphal-Kolkata route, which they linked to Manipur’s increased use of force. To meet the increasing number of soldiers stationed in the region, there was a requirement to increase the frequency of air flights from three to five days.

Since the Ministry first decided in 2019 to offer air courier services to employees in Jammu & Kashmir, it has expanded the programme to all industries to shorten the time security personnel must travel while on leave.

Flight routes that have been approved are Kolkata-Aizawl-Silchar-Kolkata, Kolkata-Agartala-Kolkata, Kolkata-Imphal-Kolkata, Delhi-Srinagar-Delhi, Srinagar-Jammu-Srinagar, Delhi-Leh-Delhi, Delhi-Dibrugarh-Guwahati-Delhi, and Delhi-Raipur-Jagdalpur-Raipur-Delhi.