New IAF ‘airport’ in Arunachal is alternative to walking 157 km

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GUWAHATI, SEPTEMBER 18: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has provided the remotest circle headquarters in Arunachal Pradesh an alternative to trekking 157 km to the nearest connected town.
On Wednesday, Eastern Air Command chief Air Marshal RD Mathur and the Army’s Eastern Command head Lt. Gen. Anil Chauhan inaugurated the advanced landing ground (ALG) at Vijaynagar in Changlang district.
This is the 8th ALG made operational by the IAF since a Rs 720-crore project received impetus in 2013. The others are at Aalo, Mechuka, Pasighat, Tawang, Tuting, Walong and Ziro.
Comprising 16 villages with 4,438 people, according to the 2011 census, Vijaynagar is dominated by former Assam Rifles personnel settled there since May 1961 for strategic reasons; the place is on the border with Myanmar. The local Lisu tribal people call the place Daudi.
Vijaynagar used to have a makeshift landing strip serviced occasionally by military choppers, carrying up to 1 tonne of goods and 18 people at a time. People depended on these weather-dictated sorties or trekked 157 km to Miao, the nearest sub-divisional headquarters on the border with Assam.
The repair of the runway at Vijaynagar, like a mini-airport that can be used by fixed-wing aircraft too, was coordinated by the Air Force Station in eastern Assam’s Jorhat. “Without a road, airlifting all the load by helicopters to Vijaynagar was a challenging task,” an IAF officer said.
“The movement of larger transport aircraft to and from this airfield will act as a catalyst for the development of the area and facilitate movement of the locals. The airfield is important not only for the local administration in extending their reach to the residents of this remote area but also crucial from a strategic point of view,” Air Marshal Mathur said.
The ALG, he added, would assist in effective management of the borders with Myanmar and facilitate launch of joint operations by the Army and the IAF for the defence of the geographically-challenged area.
Chicken for salt
Connectivity issues have made the people of Vijaynagar pay a premium for essential commodities. The Changlang district administration’s site says locals have to buy salt or sugar at a minimum Rs 200 a kg.
This is because of “porter charge” added to the price of each commodity. A porter has to walk almost a week one way to bring the goods from Miao on their heads.
While the “resourceful” people buy the expensive commodities from shops, poorer villagers rear chicken primarily to barter them for sugar, salt, pulses, or cooking oil.
Arunachal Pradesh has had plans to build a road from Miao to Vijaynagar. The foundation stone for the Miao-Vijaynagar road worth Rs 225-crore was laid in February 2013, but environmentalists have been opposing this project as it runs through the Namdapha Tiger Reserve.
AN-32 spotters honoured
Air Marshal Mathur also flew to Aalo, headquarters of West Siang district in central Arunachal Pradesh to award cheques and certificates of appreciation to officials, mountaineers and villagers who helped in spotting the AN-32 aircraft that crashed on June 3 and retrieving the bodies of 13 crew members on board.
The highest amount of Rs 1.5 lakh was given to Tadut Tachung, a resident of Payum village who provided the primary inputs about the aircraft that was flying from Assam’s Jorhat to the Mechuka ALG in Shi-Yomi district.
The chieftains of 3 villages near the crash site – Tasi Yapi of Gasheng, Taning Pangu of Gatte and Ta Tum Tai of Payum – were given Rs 50,000 each.
Siang district’s Deputy Commissioner Rajeev Takuk was given a cheque of Rs 1 lakh for coordinating the search operation. Five mountaineers, headed by Taka Tamut, were also given cheques and certificates. (Courtesy: The Hindu)