Bhubaneswar: Prabasi Odias living in the United Arab Emirates have demanded direct air connectivity to Jharsuguda airport from major metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. A group of senior Odia professionals living in the UAE met the Consul General of India Shri Vipul and presented a memorandum on the same issue. According to the memorandum, direct air links with major cities will be viable for the airlines operating on this route on account of:1. A lot of young professionals with their roots in the western part of the state are now working in major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata etc. They have to endure long train journeys (in many cases more than 24 hrs) or fly to Bhubaneswar or Raipur to reach their home towns. This is a captive audience for airlines to cater to.2. Odia diaspora with their roots in Western Odisha, have to endure long international flights to major airports like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and then have to wait for a connecting flight to Bhubaneswar or Raipur (two major airports in the region). Their journey to reach their hometowns doesn’t end there, they have to again take a train or a road journey, often running into 5-6 hours to reach their destinations in the western part of the state. Demand from them for direct air connectivity is a legitimate one.3. Mineral and resource rich Western Odisha has to go to Raipur or Bhubaneswar (both are 250-300 kms away from this region) to catch flights. Coal producing belt of Brajrajnagar, Belpahar and parts of Sundargarh District needs air connectivity on an urgent basis.4. The region has many leading educational institutions:a. National Institute of Technology (NIT), Rourkelab. Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Sambalpurc. Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Technology (VSSUT), Burla, Sambalpurd. Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (VIMSAR), Burla, SambalpurAll of the above are currently suffering for lack of air connectivity. Recruiters shy away from these institutes because of their remote locations, which force them to endure long road/train journeys to reach them.5. Corporations & Major offices like the below will provide business travellers.a. Mahanadi Coal Fields (MCL), Burla, Sambalpurb. Rourkela Steel Plant, Rourkelac. Sambalpur Railway Division, Sambalpurd. Hindalco’s Hirakud Smelter & Power Complex, Hirakude. Tata Steel (Bhushan Steel & Power Plant), Jharsugudaf. Vedanta Captive Power Plant & Smelter, Jharsuguda6. The western part of Odisha has major tourist attractions like the following:a. Hirakud Dam – This dam is one of the longest man made dams in the world and one of the world’s longest earthen dams.b. Leaning Temple of Huma, near Sambalpur – is one of the only two leaning temples in the world.c. Samaleswari Temple, Sambalpur and Ghanteswari Temple, Chiplima, near Sambalpur d. Nrusinghanath Temple, Bargarh and Harishankar Temple, Bolangire. Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary on the banks of the Hirakud Reservoir, near Sambalpurf. Buddhist Shrine, Boudhg. Pradhanpat Waterfalls in Deogarh and Khandadhar Waterfalls in SundargarhDirect Flights from major cities will definitely lead to greater tourism in the region.7. The region is also famous for its Handlooms. The ‘’Sambalpuri’’ saree is world famous. Direct air services will enable buyers of major retail chains to directly source the sarees from this part and will provide better prices to the weavers.According to this group of Odia Professionals, currently Bhubaneswar has about 11 daily direct flights from Delhi and about 4 flights from Mumbai. Jharsuguda falls on the flight path of both these routes. To begin with, we urge the Government of India to at least start hopping flights to Jharsuguda. A flight from Delhi to Bhubaneswar or from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar can easily go via Jharsuguda. Even if this arrangement is not made for all days of the week, such flights can operate on bi-weekly or tri-weekly basis.Shri Vipul, Consul General of India at Dubai, who himself has lived and worked in Rourkela for about 6 months, gave the group a patient hearing and was convinced on the need for direct air connectivity to Jharsuguda airport from major cities. He promised to take this up with Civil Aviation Ministry in Delhi and request for active consideration for introduction of direct flights. The delegation comprised of Capt. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik (Director & CEO, International Shipping & Logistics FZE – A Tata Group Company), Shri Priyadarshee Panigrahi – (General Manager, Wipro Unza Middle East Limited – A Wipro Group Company) & Arvind Biswal (Head Legal, VFS Tasheel International).According to Captain Patnaik, direct air links will boost the economic development of the region and will enable greater corporate investment, ultimately leading to better lives for the people residing in and around Western Odisha. Shri Priyadarshee Panigrahi drew the attention to the fact that many companies shy away from coming to this part of Odisha for campus recruitments due to lack of air connectivity. Direct air links will solve this problem and students studying in various institutions will not be at a disadvantage.Shri Arvind talked about the Odia diaspora being inconvenienced because of the long travel times to reach this part of the state from abroad and also from within India. The other signatories of the memorandum were: Shri Manas Panda (Director & General Manager nVent Electrical Middle East), Shri Rajesh Tripathy (General Manager, S.P. Jain School of Global Management, Dubai) and Shri Rajat Rath (Senior Financial Analyst, Thuraya Communications).