Jairam Ramesh, Subodh Kant Sahay, Ajit Singh and Syed Ahmed at the inauguration of the new terminal of Ranchi airport on Sunday (Hardeep Singh)
Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh heralded a “new dawn” for Jharkhand’s flagging economy on Sunday by inaugurating the Rs 138-crore integrated terminal at Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi that promises to increase the footfall of high-fliers.
It took four years for the state-of-the-art facility to see the light of day — courtesy hitches at both state and central levels since erstwhile civil aviation minister Praful Patel laid its foundation stone in 2009 — but “the wait has been worth it”.
“The new terminal will contribute to the overall economic development of the region. Fliers, both domestic and international, are on the rise across the country. In 2010-11, there were 142 million fliers. The figure rose to 162 million in 2011-12. So, having state-of-the-art terminals at tier II and III cities have become imperative,” the minister said.
He pointed out that his ministry, in association with the Airports Authority of India (AAI), had been working on massive modernisation and expansion projects across India. “Ranchi airport was a part of it. Though delayed, the wait has been worth it,” he said.
On the sidelines, Singh also stressed on future development of smaller airports and airstrips. “Projects have been proposed for Bokaro, Jamshedpur and Deoghar. The state should also do a recce of other possible areas (for development of airports) and send us proposals. We will extend our full co-operation to improve air connectivity in this region,” he added.
At Sunday evening’s high-profile function, the civil aviation minister was joined by his cabinet colleague and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, Jharkhand governor Syed Ahmed, Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu. Among state mandarins present were chief secretary S.K. Choudhary, home secretary J.B. Tubid and civil aviation secretary Sajal Chakraborty.
Taking pot shots at bureaucrats and politicians in his signature style, Ramesh said: “If they stop interfering, even PSUs can do good work. The Ranchi terminal, built by AAI, is a testimony to this.”
Both Ramesh and Sahay advocated increase in number of airlines and frequency of flights to ensconce Jharkhand on the aviation map.
“For example, Ranchi has no morning flight to Delhi. Businessmen who need to attend important meetings suffer,” Sahay reasoned, while Ramesh nodded in approval.
AAI chairman V.P. Aggarwal pointed out that the key reason why not many airlines come to Jharkhand is the heavy 20 per cent tax levied by the state. “In other states, it is just 4 per cent. Reduce tax and airlines will come flocking. We will provide night-landing facilities free of cost,” he said.
Governor Ahmed, on his part, did not commit anything. He assured dignitaries that he would do everything possible to improve the situation. “I congratulate Jharkhand on its new airport and hope that it will usher in prosperity for everyone here,” Ahmed said.
The first flight from the new terminal is expected to take off on Tuesday.
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