Jalandhar: Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, reacting to the issue of resumption of direct flights between the UK and Amritsar raised by British Sikh MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, has indicated that the state government could consider forgoing state aviation tax to facilitate the same.
Dhesi had urged the Punjab government to consider incentives for international airlines so that they could consider landing at Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji International Airport, Amritsar. He had suggested that the state government could follow the lead of the West Bengal government by waive off tax on aviation turbine fuel.
Talking to TOI on Monday, Manpreet said, “If any international airlines wish to resume flights from Amritsar we can consider forgoing the state tax.”
Lauding Dhesi’s efforts in this direction, Badal agreed that direct international flights from Amritsar airport could create a lot of job opportunities. Dhesi had raised this issue with the finance minister during his recent meeting as well.
Meanwhile, Dhesi said he would meet with international airlines in the UK and try to persuade carriers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways to start operating flights between Amritsar and London.
Referring to his meetings with minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha and finance minister Arun Jaitley, Dhesi said, “I explained to the ministers that Punjabis abroad considered the removal of the Amritsar-UK direct routes as another example of the step-motherly treatment of Delhi towards Punjabis.
“I understand it is a false perception and now that there was an Open Skies agreement between the two countries, any carrier can start a flight between the two cities if it was financially viable for them,” the MP said.
Dhesi said that it was Sinha who cited example of the West Bengal government’s decision to levy zero state tax on airlines and that the Punjab government would have to be persuaded to adopt a similar line.
The British MP said the direct flights between Amritsar and London as well as Birmingham would increase a lot of international tourist traffic to Amritsar besides connecting Punjabi diaspora with their roots.
“Distance for the next generation of immigrants is already increasing and we need to reduce that at least by making the journey to Punjab comfortable by obviating the road travel from Delhi,” he said. “Moreover London is a global hub of air traffic and connecting with it directly would open business opportunities for Punjab as well,” Dhesi said.