Passenger Exodus: Imphal-Kolkata Airfares Surge Amidst Rising Tensions
Thousands of passengers are stranded outside the Imphal airport, with airfares soaring up to six to eight times the usual prices. The scurry to leave Manipur has been fueled by the violent situation in the state, which erupted last week. The Imphal-to-Kolkata airfares are currently ranging from Rs 22,000 to Rs 30,000, with almost all Kolkata-bound flights running full, as reported by the airlines that operate between the two cities.
The situation has been tense in Imphal since the violence broke out, with a mob setting fire to a car and gunfire being heard right outside a bank official’s home. With the internet still snapped in the city and public movement largely restricted, the markets and shops were open for a few hours on Sunday. Only those with air tickets were leaving their homes, and the airport is now swarming with passengers waiting for their flights.
The Bank official, who has been posted in Imphal since last year, said, “The situation is scary, but I have enough food to sustain me for the next few days. I have been staying home with doors and windows closed.” He added that his family was worried about his safety and had been asking him to come back to Kolkata at the earliest, but with airfares hitting the roof and flights full, he had a confirmed ticket for Kolkata next week.
Another Bengali living in Manipur stated, “Such has been the rush of passengers leaving the city that the airport looks like a public bus stand or railway station, with many people sitting and sleeping on the floor waiting for their flights.” Meanwhile, according to an Airports Authority of India press release, 108 flights operated out of the Imphal airport between May 4 and May 6, with the AAI opening special food and snacks counters at the airport selling stuff at market rates, and free food and water being distributed to some stranded passengers.
Violence in Manipur Sparks Panic Among Residents, Strands Thousands at Imphal Airport
The situation in Manipur began on May 3 after the All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) held a solidarity march in all districts opposing the recent Manipur High Court order, which had asked the Manipur State government to send a recommendation to the Centre regarding the demand to include the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (STs) list. The violence escalated on May 4, prompting the Centre to invoke Article 355 of the Constitution, which empowers the Centre to take necessary steps to protect a State against external aggression or internal disturbances.
Convoys of trucks belonging to the Army, the Assam Rifles, the Rapid Action Force, and local police personnel have moved into the State and entered several affected areas. The situation has resulted in over a dozen people being reported killed, hundreds being wounded, and over 9,000 people belonging to the Kuki and Meitei communities, besides others, being displaced so far. Defense sources have stated that around 9,000 people have been rescued from violence-hit areas and given shelter, and buildings, homes, and other property, including vehicles, have been destroyed. There is no official confirmation of the number of fatalities yet.
Amid the chaos, airlines are operating extra flights to meet the demand. IndiGo operated two special additional flights from Imphal to Kolkata on Saturday and an extra ATR flight on Sunday. Officials at Kolkata airport have stated that all flights coming to the city from Imphal are full, with a significant rise in demand. The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, expressed her anguish and concern about the Manipur situation, and her government has decided to make every effort to evacuate people stranded in coordination with the Government of Manipur.