Saturday, December 01, 2018

Purandar airport should have been government’s priority

The chief minister had announced the approval for the new greenfield airport at Purandar more than two years ago. However, his recent statement about the project likely to be delayed due to the 2019 elections is not entirely unexpected.
Initially, the expansion of the Lohegaon airport and operationalisation of the greenfield Purandar airport were to be done by the same time — around 2020. Questions were then raised about the public money being used for the Lohegaon airport’s expansion when an independent Purandar airport was to become operational almost simultaneously. The prudence of the government decision to do so was being debated as it was known that the MoD wanted all the civil flights, operating to and from the Lohegaon airport, will eventually be shifted to Purandar airport once it becomes operational. This was confirmed when the MoD later issued the NOC for Purandar airport subject to this condition.

Delaying the Purandar airport appears to be a political decision as there are two historical “make or break” elections in 2019. With each vote making a difference, going ahead with the land acquisition for Purandar airport would have resulted in opening up of one more political battlefront for the government at this politically crucial juncture. It would have provided an opportunity to the opposition to further politicise the issue and rake sentiments of the people affected by land acquisition.

A soft political decision, taken by the Maharashtra CM, to delay the Purandar airport appears to be strategic. Moreover, delaying this project also justified the few hundred crores spent on the expansion of the Lohegaon airport.
01/12/18 Dhairyashil Vandekar/Times of India