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Bhubaneswar: Ahead of the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup, the much-awaited flight service to Steel City began on Saturday.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik flagged off the maiden flight operation in presence of Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia also joined the inaugural function through videoconferencing from New Delhi.   

In a tweet, the Chief Minister said, “Glad to have flagged off the 1st flight to #Rourkela Airport. Thank Hon’ble PM Shri @narendramodi ji for the support to improve connectivity to the hinterland of #Odisha under #UDAN. It will boost connectivity, commerce & tourism, fulfilling aspirations of people of the region.”

Shri Patnaik also thanked the Union Civil Aviation Minister for all the efforts, especially to coordinate between SAIL and DGCA for the flight service to Rourkela Airport under UDAN ahead of the World Cup. It will offer seamless connectivity to sports fans coming to celebrate hockey in Odisha, he added.

“This route, being started under the UDAN scheme, is an important flight from the perspective of development of the mineral industry as well as the Hockey World Cup 2023 starting January 13,” Shri Scindia said in a tweet.

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, “Aspirations of people of Rourkela and Odisha take yet another flight.” He added that ‘Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji yet again delivers his promise to the people of Odisha.’

However, both the Union Ministers have expressed their resentment for the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s picture in hoardings and advertisement issued by the Odisha government on kickoff of the flight operation.

The UDAN scheme, which is being implemented, is a vision of Prime Minister Modi. Absence of PM’s picture in the advertisement is definitely a matter of sadness, the Civil Aviation Minister said.

“Either in the matter of airports or airlines, we should run behind the credit. We believe in work together. We are committed to render better services to the people. I hope this matter will reach to the Chief Minister,” he said.

Similarly, Pradhan and Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi too criticized the State Government over the issue. Shri Pradhan termed the absence of PM Modi’s pictures in advertisement and hoardings as ‘unfortunate’.

There could be differences of opinion in politics but there is a need to be united whenever it’s a matter of Odisha’s interest, Shri Pradhan said.

“Prime Minister during his recent Bali visit had spoken about the historic Bali Yatra. He (PM) had been taking Odisha’s name at several international events. But, it is unfortunate that the Odisha Government did not even thank the PM and Civil Aviation Minister for the flight service,” he said.

The BJP leader said it would have been appropriate if the PM’s picture was also included in the advertisement and hoardings.

“It is not the tradition of Odisha. And today’s event was only possible due to the efforts of the Prime Minister. I am sure the Chief Minister must not be aware of such a thing,” Shri Pradhan added.

Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi said, “The Centre has contributed 100 percent of the funds but unfortunately there is no picture of the Prime Minister in any of the hoarding and advertisement. It is shameful that not a single official associated with the State Government acknowledged it. All of us as well as the people of Odisha wanted to hear a thank you from the Chief Minister.”

Commenting on this, Transport Minister Tukuni Sahu said, “Opposition is in the habit of bringing allegations.”

Alliance Air will operate the flight service between Bhubaneswar and Rourkela with a capacity of 72 passengers. While the inaugural flight took off today, the routine flight services will start from January 12.

As per schedule, the aircraft will take off from Bhubaneswar at 2:55 PM and reach Rourkela at 3:50 PM every day. On its return journey the flight will take off from Rourkela at 4:15 PM and arrive in Bhubaneswar at 5:10 PM.

As far as the fare is concerned, the Bhubaneswar – Rourkela fare has been set at Rs 2803 and the return fare is priced at Rs 2721.