Heavy snowfall during winters result in the closure of national highways connecting Ladakh to the mainland thus making air-ways the only source of connectivity to this cold desert. And before the complete closure of Zojila pass due to snowfall for this season, the UT Administration gears up to make arrangements by using the AN-32 Courier Services to cater to the transportation of passengers of Kargil as well as essential goods.
Advisor to Lieutenant Governor UT Ladakh Umang Narula chaired a State level officers’ meeting to review the preparedness for the winter life-line.
Commissioner/Secretary Civil Aviation Rigzin Samphel, Divisional Commissioner Ladakh Saugat Biswas, Additional Director General of Police S.S. Khandare, Secretary to LG Ladakh Ravinder Kumar Dangi, District Magistrate Leh Sachin Kumar Vaishya, COO Air Force Station Leh Group Capt A Rathi, representative of HQ AOC (J&K) Wg Cdr SS Bisht were present in the meeting.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Pandurang K. Pole, Additional Commissioner with Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Managing Directors of AAI Jammu and Srinagar, Director Health Services Jammu and Kashmir, Managing Directors of SRTC, Additional Deputy Commissioner Kargil Tsering Motup, representatives of Air Force and CISF in Jammu and Kashmir, and concerned officers participated in the meeting via video conference.
Advisor Narula appreciated the departments/agencies for their last years’ support and cooperation that resulted in the smooth functioning of the winter air-service. He also mentioned the work-load that had risen due to the emergency situation created due to Covid pandemic. Narula then expressed his hope to get similar cooperation from all the concerned departments and stakeholders to provide better facilities to the passengers. He gave directions for the appointment of Liaison Officers, and told DCs of both the districts to make arrangements for medical screening before boarding. Directions were also given to the concerned agencies for the appointment of Nodal Officers and ensure advance arrangements in place for the overall smooth functioning of operation of flights.
Com/Secy Samphel initiating the meeting informed about planning to start the Courier service tentatively from the third week of December on weekly basis from Kargil to Srinagar and Jammu sectors. A power-point presentation by Samphel briefed about the background as well as the requisitions during the upcoming operation of AN-32. Various discussions and decisions were made in consultation with the counterparts in Jammu and Kashmir.
The meeting deliberated on several aspects in connection with alternate ways during flight cancellations due to bad weather condition and other unavoidable reasons, rush periods especially during the months of February and March/April, availability of alternate IL-76 or C-17 for stranded passengers, medical emergency evacuations, space for ticket counters, bus transportation, ticket fare among others.
Ensuring their assistance as per the past practice, the Air Force authority informed that following the Covid-19 advisory, the passengers intending to avail of the air service must adhere to the mandatory requirements of medical screening before boarding, any passenger with flu-like symptoms is to be denied boarding, passengers be provided with fresh triple layer mask and face shield, based on social distancing requirement a maximum of 25 passengers will be accommodated, only the approved number of passengers will be permitted to arrive at the aircraft, and handling of passenger baggage by a separate team.