Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Udan airport is helping dreams take off in Nanded

For years, Shankar Tak dreamt about taking a flight. His job at Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji airport in Nanded meant he saw flyers walk into the restrooms he cleaned every day, but he didn't think he could actually get on a plane. Last month, Tak finally took a flight from Nanded to Hyderabad, after saving up for nine months for the Rs 2,500 airfare. "It was a fantastic experience. It felt as if I was roaming in the clouds. I wanted to take pictures but I have an old mobile phone," he said.
Tak bought a ticket under the Udan regional air connectivity scheme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2017. Nanded in Maharashtra was among the first cities to be connected under the project, which aims to make air travel affordable by developing underserved airports and helipads across the country. Thursday's Union Budget gave it a further boost by allocating Rs 1,000 crore for 56 unserved airports and 31 helipads under Udan.
The service, capped at Rs 2,500 a ticket for a limited number of seats, has raised hopes in Marathwada, the drought-prone region of Maharashtra with a population of 5.5 lakh. Residents hope the airport will attract tourists and help send agricultural produce to other parts of the country.
One of the least urbanised districts in Maharashtra, Nanded district's economy is dependent on agriculture. Pilgrims going to Tirupati, who had to spend two days on a train, are now flying there via Hyderabad. Nanded itself is an important pilgrimage spot for Sikhs, known for the Gurdwara Sachkhand Sahib, where the 10th guru Gobind Singh lived. "Tourist flow is rising and it is benefitting localities near the gurudwara," said Sanju Kulkarni, who owns a bookstore in Nanded.
06/02/18 Radheshyam Jadhav/Times of India