Mrunal Manmay Dash

The maiden Bhubaneswar-Dubai direct flight was flagged off by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik from Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) on Monday.

Out of the 186 passengers and crew, the Indigo flight had around 70 invited dignitaries which included state government ministers, their families members, ruling BJD MLAs and some top bureaucrats, to which Opposition BJP and Congress raised objections.

As per the government statement, the dignitaries have been invited to take part in the Odisha Dibasa programme which will be organised on May 16 and 17 in Dubai.

The Opposition questioned, if the dignitaries are attending a government programme in Dubai, then why MLAs of the Opposition parties are not invited.

BJP MLA, Subash Panigrahi said, “We have no idea about any programme being organised in Dubai. If only the BJD leaders are sponsored by the Odisha government to attend the Odisha Dibasa programme in Dubai, then it is condemnable.”

“Odisha does not have money to sponsor foreign tours for MLAs. If they want to go, then they should pay from their own pockets. The BJD MLAs should not go by spending the public money,” said Congress MLA, Santosh Singh Saluja.

However, when asked about the Dubai tour, BJD MLA, Debi Prasad Mishra who was also a passenger in the inaugural flight, said, “No organisation has invited us. We were linked with the event organiser for many years. So whoever is going there, has paid from their pocket.”

Before taking off from Bhubaneswar in the evening, the flight had arrived from Dubai in the afternoon at the Bhubaneswar airport, where it was accorded a water cannon salute.

Earlier, there was no direct flight to Dubai and passengers had to changeover at either Hyderabad or Mumbai. With the flight changes and stopovers, it took almost 24 hours to reach Dubai from Bhubaneswar. Now with the direct flight, the journey time will be reduced to around four hours.

However, a fresh controversy has erupted over the ticket fare. While the State government had declared the ticket fare to be Rs 20,000, the amount during booking reportedly shows more than Rs 26,000.

“The website of the airlines is showing Rs 26,000 as the fare to Dubai. We are hopeful that the price will come down to Rs 20,000 soon because the government has offered subsidy on the tickets,” said a tour operator, Alok Moharana.

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