The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mosque stays in airport plan

Calcutta, Jan. 30: The Centre and the state have found a way to develop Calcutta airport without disturbing a mosque on the premises that has been blamed for being a hurdle in the expansion plans.

Civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussain, who met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings today, said the mosque — intelligence reports have labelled it a “security threat” — would stay but a new road would be built to it.

Hussain admitted that the mosque was “illegal” and a “security threat”, but said the Centre and the state were unwilling to hurt the “sentiments of an entire community”.

“There is some land that belongs to the state government which can be used to construct an alternative road to the mosque that will be farther away from the tarmac,” he added.

Bhattacharjee, he said, had agreed to the development proposal, including a new runway.

Hussain announced five new international flights and a Rs 150-crore package for the airport’s development. Among the new flights is a revived KLM service. The others are Calcutta-Mumbai-Frankfurt (Lufthansa), Calcutta-Singapore (Singapore Airlines), Calcutta-Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian Airlines) and Calcutta-Bangkok-Tokyo (Air-India on the Calcutta-Bangkok leg and JAL thereafter).

Hussain said the civil aviation and finance ministries would put their heads together to decide on the route to privatisation — either leasing out the airport, giving it to franchisees or going for a joint venture.

Hussain talked of the security hazards outside the airport —the mushrooming highrises and the illegal khatals. “If the mosque is a security hazard, so are the buildings which have mushroomed all around the airport,” he said.

“We have asked the state government several times to take some definite action,” he said. “I was forced to have some photographs taken, and handed them over to the chief minister.” Hussain said he hoped the state would act now.

The minister also urged immediate action against mafia intrusion in cargo traffic.

The mosque, which several intelligence reports have found to be a “security hazard”, has been blamed for being a roadblock in the civil aviation ministry’s plans to expand Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport.

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