Thursday, November 10, 2016

SAD govt racing against time for maiden flight from Bathinda

Political exigency might have made Punjab's SAD-BJP government to hurriedly operationalize the Bathinda domestic airport, which otherwise was hanging fire for the past four years, but in a reality check, it was found there is no activity at the abandoned airport. Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, running against time, declared on Tuesday at different functions in Bathinda that Bathinda airport will be made operational on December 4. With only 25 days left for December 4, the airport still wears a deserted look. Congress grass has wildly grown in and around the airport. The road to the airport is in bad shape, and the rusted airport gate is widely shut. No one is allowed to go inside.
Situated at village Virk Kalan, adjoining the Bhisiana airbase of Indian Air Force, the airport was constructed in October 2012 in 40 acres with Rs25 crore, and nearly rupees nine crore had been spent on its maintenance in four years. Since then, a lot of politics was played in the name of the airport, but it had failed to see the light of day, for no airlines evinced interest in starting operations from here, even terming the airport 'unviable'. "Now suddenly, when elections to the state assembly are fast approaching, the SAD-BJP government has swung into action, and seems to be in a hurry to start the airport, even though a lot needs to be done to provide a comfort zone to passengers," said an official in the corporate sector.
Air India officials visited Bathinda two days ago and interacted with representatives of trade and industry to get a feedback on the viability of running flights and possible routes. Air India's subsidiary Alliance Air has agreed to put an ATR-72 aircraft to fly from Bathinda. Harsimrat Kaur on Tuesday said talks with airliners and the National Airports Authority of India (NAAI) are in the final stages for beginning operations from Bathinda. The airport will be inaugurated on December 4." All the finer details to start the airport, including flight schedules and destinations are being chalked out, and soon everything will be made public." Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal also said in the same day at village Chugge Kalan that the airport will begin operations on December 4, but did not provide any details.
10/11/16 Neel Kamal/The Times Of India