Friday, August 03, 2018

UDAN is struggling to fly

Rajesh Jain, a trader of chemicals from Mithapur, a sleepy town lying in between Dwarka and Okha in Gujarat, is a dejected man. He was ecstatic last year when the civil aviation ministry announced plans to connect the private airport in Mithapur to the economic hub of Ahmedabad and the rest of country under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), fondly called UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik). A trip to Ahmedabad, which currently takes around 7-8 hours by rail or road, would have taken less than 40 minutes, by air.

But his dream airport travel has not taken off, yet. Other than a runway on which just over a dozen small charter aircraft belonging to Tatas and Coast Guards apart from casual private charters land in an entire year, there are no other facilities of an airport on the ground. Air Odisha (a joint venture between Gujarat State Export Corporation Ltd, Monarch Group and Capt Gopinath-founded Air Deccan), which has won the bid to start operations under RCS from the airport, has been told that the flights can begin to take off only after a year as a tall chimney is acting as an obstruction.

Mithapur’s economy primarily revolves around Tata Chemicals, with most residents depending on the company for their livelihood. The story began in 1939 when the Tatas took over the Okha Salt Works. Mithapur airport, privately owned by Tata Chemicals, is part of the 5,398 acres of freehold land obtained in the 1930s from the government of the erstwhile princely state of Baroda.
03/08/18 Shahkar Abidi/ZeeBusiness

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