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December 24, 2009

Protest against hike in helicopter fares for Lahaul-Spiti

     Kullu: People from Lahaul-Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh staged a mass protest demonstration against the state government for hiking the fares of helicopter flights to their areas in the hilly terrain. On December 19, the Himachal Pradesh government announced that it has raised the fares three times for the helicopter flights to the high altitude areas of Lahaul, Spiti and Pangi in Chamba region. As a mark of their protest, some of the irate demonstrators had their heads tonsured. "To express my anger and objection to the state government hiking the helicopter flight fares, I have got my head tonsured. But even after this, if government doesn't take any steps to decrease the fares, we will call for a meeting to decide our next step. We can show our violent side to demonstrate against this price hike,' said Deepak, a resident. The fares had been raised to rupees 2,100 per person for locals and government officials as against the earlier tariff of rupees 700 per person. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal stated that since the fuel prices have increased, the fares had to be enhanced but only for those who can afford it and not for the poor. "Earlier, helicopters were mainly used for emergency purposes. So if now these would be used for regular flights, then necessarily with the fuel prices having increased, the passenger fares will also have to be increased. Hence the fares were hiked. We have kept the rates minimum for the patients and the poor people but those who can afford, will have to pay for it," he added. Every year during winter season, Lahaul-Spiti region remains cut off from the rest of the State since road links are blocked, often lasting upto six months. Hence the central government had mooted scheduled helicopter flights in Lahaul-Sipti and Chamba regions. Helicopter services to Lahaul-Spiti region were started in 1970s.
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