The Telegraph
Sunday , January 19 , 2014
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Theft clouds Gaya visa facility

Patna, Jan. 18: The state government still struggles on the law and order front around Gaya airport even as visa-on-arrival facility is going to be implemented for foreign pilgrims visiting Bodhgaya.

A state tourism department official said their efforts might come cropper as the night-landing facility at the airport have been interrupted several times in the past casting a shadow on the visa-on-arrival process.

The night-landing facility at the airport was started a couple of months back after it remained suspended for almost five years.

With Gaya police stating that it was just a small theft of a battery of a solar plate near the Durgeshwari hills and the same has been re-installed, the department is not in a mood to take things lightly with senior officials stating that such incidents could tarnish the image of Bihar tourism.

Sources in the department said around 200-300 foreign tourists, mainly of Southeast Asian Buddhist nations, arrive in Gaya.

“After a lot of hard work, the state got a nod from the ministry of external affairs, ministry of tourism and the civil aviation department for starting the visa-on-arrival facility at Gaya. The countries to get the benefit of the same include Southeast Asian Buddhist countries and Sri Lanka. However, no date has been set to start the process. An initiative aimed at making the process swift has to be taken by the officials. However, the law and order situation in Gaya is dampening the spirits of the department,” a senior tourism department official said on condition of anonymity.

At present, several airlines — Mihin Lanka (Sri Lanka), Thai Airways (Thailand), Myanmar Airways (Myanmar), Druk Air (Bhutan) among others — fly to Gaya everyday besides many chartered flights.

Once the theft took place, the night landing facility at the airport was suspended.

Gaya SSP Nishant Tiwary however said everything was in order now. “There is a small solar panel at the hills meant for facilitating the night landing. It is not that the whole night landing equipment was stolen. The battery, which runs the solar panel, was stolen and it has been put in place again,” he said.

“There should be some security near the place where the solar panels have been installed. We can provide security but there has to be infrastructure also for the securitymen. It has to be done by the airport authorities. A small house and proper fencing will solve the problems. Both me and the Gaya district magistrate have told this to the airport authorities and work in connection with the same is on,” he said.