Tinsukia: From COVID-19 vaccines to oxygen concentrators, doctors to medical supplies. There could not have been a better timing for the maiden chopper sortie to land at one of India’s remotest village, bringing a sigh of relief and smiles for the thousands that live in the tough terrain.

Gandhigram, a small hamlet about 24 km from Vijaynagar (nearest helipad) and 133 km from Miao (the last road), in the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh is yet to be connected by road even after 73 years of Independence.

On Tuesday, when the first chopper sortie landed at the newly constructed helipad – the only reliable means of transportation in the absence of motorable roads – at Gandhigram in Changlang district, it brought with it a ray of hope.

At the Gandhigram helipad

Chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu tweeted: “Glad to share that Gandhigram helipad which was inaugurated in March is operational now.
Today in the first sortie doctors administered #Covishield vaccination & distributed essential items to fight #covid. Gandhigram is located in Vijaynagar sub division bordering Myanmar.”

Deputy commissioner of Changlang, Devansh Yadav told EastMojo that around 200 beneficiaries were inoculated with Covishield vaccines after they were brought in by the maiden chopper sortie.

“This was a new dawn and a sigh of relief for all 3,000-odd villagers living here.”

Significance of the helipad

Though an integral part of India, Gandhigram has remained cut-off from all types of communication and networks – road, air or waterways – leaving villages to trek over a hundred kilometers to reach the nearest town.

This has not only meant a hard life for the villagers, especially during medical emergencies, but has also increased the cost of essential commodities due to high foot-march cost.

“For example, the rate of Rs 3 per kg of PDS rice rates increases to Rs 16 due to the element of foot-march cost involved,” explained Yadav.

“Earlier, rations had to be sent to Vijaynagar via chopper, and then taken on foot-march by trekking 24 kms all the way to Gandhigram,” he added.

Another benefit of the helipad will be the reduction in supply time, the importance of which will be realised during times of emergency. With the helipad now operational, the time of supply and movement to Gandhigram will cut by at least 6 hours.

Construction cost and operations

The helipad, constructed by PWD department at an estimated cost of Rs 20 lakh in 2019-20, was inaugurated by CM Khandu on March 29. 

Khandu tweeted on March 29: “With lack of proper motorable roads, Helicopters are the only reliable means of transportation during emergency. Inaugurated a helipad at Gandhigram amidst presentation of beautiful patriotic song by the local school students.”

Yadav said Skyone helicopter service will be now available weekly, taking governance to the last mile in bare minimum time.

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