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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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300 resist land for airport

Dumka, Feb. 19: Around 300 residents of a Deoghar village today resolved against handing over plots for the expansion of the airport in the temple town, close on the heels of state aviation secretary Sajal Chakravarti’s review of land acquisition initiatives.

The people of Bhitia village led by one Govind Yadav took a unanimous call, even though Jharkhand government and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had signed an MoU for the expansion of Deoghar airport in February 2012, envisaging an investment of Rs 350 crore.

The expansion is aimed to boost religious tourism in Jharkhand, besides extending air connectivity to the backward region of Santhal Pargana.

Chakravarti, who was in Deoghar on Saturday, had said that Jharkhand was planning to introduce helicopter services between Sultanganj in Bihar and Baidyanath Dham during the month-long Shravani Mela.

Around five million pilgrims throng the temple town every year during the Shravani Mela to offer puja at Baidyanath Dham.

This apart, Deoghar is also famous for religious and spiritual places including Rikhiya Ashram and Satsang Ashram.

For the airport expansion, the administration will need 650 acres to set up two runways of 2,700m and 2,820m lengths respectively.

Although the airport, after expansion, was supposed to become functional in two years, the administration has not yet completed land acquisition. A sum of Rs 50 crore, out of Rs 81 crore earmarked for the project, has already been deposited by the aviation department.

Speaking to The Telegraph over phone, the aviation secretary said, “The land acquisition process is likely to be completed by December end. Only then will AAI start construction work at the proposed site.”

Chakravarti also attended a high-level meeting today with AAI officials in Ranchi to review the proposed expansion of the airport in the state capital.

Chakravarti said the progress of the land acquisition process for expansion of Deoghar airport was also discussed with AAI authorities.

“We are ready to abide by provisions of the state’s R&R policy to compensate land losers,” he said.

Chakravarti added those protesting land acquisition in Deoghar included people who had fraudulently occupied land by violating the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act.