Saturday, March 11, 2017

Shirdi airport opens next month

An airport at Shirdi was imperative: every year, millions come up by buses, in cars or on trains to pay homage at the shrine of one of India’s most secular spiritual masters, Sai Baba. While an airport had been under discussion for years, a slapdash plan gathered dust under a previous government. But 2017, the centenary year celebrations for Sai Baba, would see record numbers of visitors.

Recognising the need of the hour, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis roped in Vishwas Patil, former district collector of Mumbai, to fast forward the airport for Shirdi.

I’ve known the maverick Patil for years, as a civil servant, but more closely as a writer; his bestselling Marathi novel, Jhadajhadi, awarded the Sahitya Ekademi Award, is a university reading list staple. At his invitation, and as an exclusive to Mumbai Mirror, I borrowed a friend’s chopper to check out the new airport, one of the first projects for the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (Patil is its vice-chairman). Produced at a cost of Rs 300 crore, for which the Sai Sansthan Trust contributed Rs 45 crore, the airport has an imposing, freshly carpeted runway of 2,500 metres.
11/03/17 Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi/Mumbai Mirror