AGARTALA: With Tripura reeling under highway slush, inflated petrol prices as well as that of basic consumer goods and highway blockade, to make matters worse, various airlines, including Air India, have been charging exorbitant fees for tickets on the Agartala-Calcutta and Agartala-Guwahati routes.
All the airlines charged between Rs 11,000 and Rs 11,500 per ticket on the Agartala-Calcutta and Agartala-Guwahati routes yesterday and today.
“This is a matter of deep concern. We are virtually disconnected by road from the rest of the country and if the air services swoop on the people of the state like vultures, the situation will become critical,” Tripura transport minister Manik Dey said.
Private airlines like Indigo and Spicejet have no upper limit on airfares. The flying time between Agartala and Calcutta is only 45 minutes while it is 40 minutes between Agartala and Guwahati.
Significantly, the price of tickets on the Calcutta-Delhi route was much lower at Rs 5,500 yesterday even though the flying time between the two metropolises is more than two hours.
The situation has worsened because of the critical condition of the 11km stretch of National Highway 44 between Churaibari in Tripura and Loarpura in Karimganj district of Assam. Thousands of trucks and other vehicles, carrying fuel and perishable goods like fruits, vegetables, fish and other items are stranded on the highway.
The Assam government took an initiative to repair the highway but heavy monsoon rain has impeded work.
The Tripura government has created a bypass road through Kathalbari near Churaibari by repairing an old route from there to Agartala via Kailasahar, Kamalpur and Khowai.
Broad-gauge train services between Agartala and Silchar started last Thursday. But the pressure is so great that the single train cannot cope with it.
A fuel crisis has also aggravated the situation, even though a trickle of fuel trucks has been coming. All 12 petrol pumps in and around Agartala have been witnessing long queues and fuel is being sold at a much higher price in the black market. Dey said he was in touch with the Union government on the issue and if the situation did not improve in the coming days the state would request the Centre for transportation of goods and fuel across Bangladesh.
It may be mentioned that instead of easing out the situation for the state, the inflation of air fares has in fact made matters worse for the state and is bound to add to the troubles of the state.