Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Dec 15:
The Odisha government today urged the Centre to include the Biju Patnaik International Airport here in the list of international airports in the Draft Aviation Policy.
Expressing anguish and surprise over the exclusion of Bhubaneswar from the list of proposed international airports in the country, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to Union Civil Aviation minister A Gajapathi Raju, said despite the fact that the Union Cabinet had declared Bhubaneswar as an international airport, the Draft Policy does not provide for International Airport at Bhubaneswar.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the state government have already spent public money on the construction of an international airport at Bhubaneswar, he added.
Expressing utter surprise at the Centre’s move, he said the state government is at a loss to understand why the Centre is not able to abide by its own decision of operationalizing the international airport at Bhubaneswar after publishing the International Airport Notification in Extraordinary Gazette of India on November 14.
Facilities for immigration clearance, health and quarantine etc. are already available at the airport. Besides, carriers are willing to operate flights too. Serious audit objections will also arise for spending public resources on a plan that the Centre had conceived, pushed and eventually repudiated.
“At this juncture, leaving Bhubaneswar out of the list of international Airports in the Draft Aviation Policy is surprising to say the least”, Patnaik noted.
Justifying his claim, Patnaik said the six metros, which are proposed to act as hubs, will witness expansion of economic activity.
“As these metros are already suffering from high levels of pollution and traffic congestion, confining the idea of hubs to only six airports will be retrogressive and uneconomical as aircrafts have to wait in queues in the sky to be given space in busy airports for landing. Besides, the airlines spend more in operating from busy airports due to high congestion while the travelers bear avoidable inconvenience of baggage transfer and change of flights. Considering the above, there is a need to immediately shift focus to other cities like Bhubaneswar that have surplus capacities which can be leveraged without additional social, economic and ecological costs,” the chief minister said in his letter.
He also said as a manufacturing, commercial and tourist centre, Odisha needs urgent upgradation of its civil aviation infrastructure.
Besides, private airlines are willing to operate international flights from Bhubaneswar, which offers congenial facilities at the airport, quick transport, comfortable accommodation and clean ambience in the city.
“Therefore, developing the city as an important airlines hub would create significant business opportunities for everyone and give a new thrust to national development”, Patnaik pointed out.
Stating that intra-state regional connectivity also needs to be attended to in the policy by including provisions for active state support and collaboration with private players, the chief minister said; “The international carriers need to be given greater role in our skies on all routes like several other large countries to make the aviation industry more efficient and competitive and prevent arbitrary pricing by monopolies”.