Bhubaneswar, March 20: Motorists beware! If you are heading to the new domestic terminal at Biju Patnaik Airport to drop off a friend or relative, be ready to shell out a few extra bucks, even if you stop there for just a couple of minutes.
According to rules, if one stops at the terminal for over five minutes, one has to pay a fee of Rs 40 for four-wheelers and Rs 10 for two-wheelers. However, many motorists complain that the parking contractor collects fees from almost everyone who enters the terminal, regardless of how much time one spends there.
Complaints of harassment and misbehaviour by parking lot managers are growing. Officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) say the entry and exit points at the airport have cameras and people should not pay parking fees if they have stopped for less than five minutes at the terminal.
For someone coming to the airport to drop someone, an information board explaining the five-minute limit would have helped. But no such board can be spotted. So, even people who have stopped for just two minutes end up paying parking fees.
“Nowhere in the country are people charged this way for parking. Why should anyone pay when they are not using parking facilities?” asked Piyush Ranjan Rout, an urban management expert.
An AAI survey has found that the average traveller needs less than five minutes to use the terminal. To make the road leading to the terminal free of jams, the AAI officials have proposed collection of parking fees from those who stay for more than five minutes.
There’s more confusion that could easily have been avoided. The ticket issued at the entry point to the airport mentions the time, but the exit slip does not. “We have placed clocks at both ends so that people dropping or picking up a passenger can check the time. If it is less than five minutes, there is no need to pay charges,” said a senior AAI official.
Soumesh Pati, a senior marketing executive and frequent flier, said: “In Mumbai, you don’t have to pay parking fees if you go to drop someone at the terminal. Only if you use the parking lot do you need to do so.”
“In Ahmedabad, AAI officials have put separate boards at arrival and departure points displaying the time limit. Two local cops man the posts and politely remind passengers if they seem to linger. The AAI officials in Bhubaneswar should learn from this,” said Rout.
Airport director Sharad Kumar said: “To handle traffic issues at the airport, we need the help of the local police. At least two cops and two home guards are required to man the posts when air traffic is more. Though we have had several rounds of discussions with the state government, there is no sign of help. We plan to put boards at arrival and departure points displaying the time limit for picking up and dropping passengers.”
It is the practice to deploy cops at airports to manage traffic and pre-paid autorickshaw booths, but Biju Patnaik Airport is not getting any help. The Central Industrial Security Force personnel are not deployed to manage these activities, as their mandate is to ensure anti-hijacking strategies.
The current parking contractor has got an extension of two months. The new contractor will be in place for three years, most likely from May 15. “The new contractor will install computer-controlled tickets from which by comparing entry and exit slips one can know whether one needs to pay parking fee. We cannot ask the present contractor to do so as it needs long-term investment,” said an AAI official.