Kolkata: The West Bengal government on Monday inked an MoU with state-run helicopter firm Pawan Hans Ltd. to avail services of sea-planes, helicopters and fixed-wing planes to boost its tourism and industrial potential.
"From the beginning, we have tried to fix the services. We have the potential to be a top tourism, environmental and cultural destination," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said after the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU).
Sources said the company will initially provide two helicopters and gradually more procurements will be made by the state government as per demand.
Pawan Hans chief managing director Anil Srivastava said: "Some of the airports which were operational in previous times will again be started and utilised again. So areas like Coochbehar can be connected. There are lot of airstrips in the state which are not utilised to fullest potential. The Airport Authority of India is committed to upgrading them."
Banerjee proposed major industrial and tourism hubs be connected through the helicopters.
"There are areas like Raichak, Haldia, Kalyani, Sunderbans, Bolpur which have enough potential. We also want to connect Malda, Siliguri, Coochbehar etc. We can start fixed service for that."
She said her government was ready to provide subsidy for eight-seaters on these air routes if they were not full.
According to Banerjee, expanding the air services network will enable Bengal to connect better with northeastern states as well as neighbouring countries Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh.
She said air services would help in disaster management during calamities and accidents.
"If some accident happens, no system is there. There are no helicopters with us. So we can give services to Bhutan, Sikkim and other north-eastern states too," said Banerjee.