Monday, May 4, 2015

Up… up… and away!

Arjun proves why paragliding makes so much sense


Not many get to glide like an eagle and fewer still get to glide for a living. Paragliding offers one such opportunity for those looking to tread the untrodden path, have fun and earn! Jumping off a cliff or a hill with your life depending on just a chute is not meant for everyone, which is why paragliding falls under the field of adventure sports. It is an up and coming field in the country and Sikkim wants a piece of it as well.
A handful of local paragliders have now earned Sikkim a place in the adventure sports map of the country and the world. One successful paraglider is Arjun Kumar Rai of Chakung in West Sikkim. He was a member of the first batch of students sent by Sports and Youth Affairs Department for basic training in paragliding in Himachal Pradesh under the Chief Minister’s Self Employment Scheme in 2005.
The 35-year-old now earns upto Rs 2 lakh per month during peak season and around Rs 1 lakh rest of the year. He is currently working with Mountain Hawk Paragliding Private Limited in Pokhara in Nepal as a commercial paragliding pilot. Starting in October last year he has a one-year contract with the company. Before this he worked for Kathmandu Paragliding Limited in Nepal for two months.
“Sikkim has huge potential to become a hot-spot for adventure tourism activities. Local youths can earn well as a commercial paragliding pilot and through other adventure tourism activities as well,” says Arjun. A paragliding pilot can hope to earn more than Rs 1 lakh per month during peak season, he adds.
The peak seasons for paragliding in Sikkim are from April to June and then October to November every year.
After his initial training in Himachal Pradesh, Arjun went for advance training under the Capacity Building Programme of the State Government to Himachal Pradesh and Nepal. He then worked as a commercial paragliding pilot for 2 years in Himachal Pradesh. Returning to Sikkim, he formed Sikkim Paragliding Adventure Sports Cooperative Society Limited along with some of his friends and started commercial Tandem paragliding in 2011 at Reshithang.
“Initially, three of us paragliders started conducting commercial paragliding flights in Reshithang but now there are around 20 paragliders in the state who are doing well. It is a good sign although there is still a lot of room for more local paragliders to meet the growing demands in this line,” shares Arjun.
During peak tourist season, these paragliders work round-the-clock since there is so much demand, so more youngsters need to take up paragliding, he adds.
At the moment, commercial paragliding flights are conducted only in East Sikkim. On this, Arjun says that there are other places in the state which can be developed for paragliding and will open more opportunities for local youths to take up paragliding as a career.
“I plan to come back to Sikkim and work for the development and promotion of paragliding in the State and to start paragliding in more spots across the state,” he shares.

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