Friday, September 11, 2020

From Kushinagar to Ayodhya, the many airports that could take off before 2022 UP elections

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government is eyeing a record of sorts by developing two new international airports and upgrading a bunch of World War II vintage airstrips into functional airports in different parts of the state. Sixteen such airstrips, now used for elections campaigns and as flying clubs, are on the radar of the state and central governments for development now, especially since the elections are just a couple of years away.

The Indian Express looks at these projects, how the state’s expressways could potentially reshape the local economy and be a political showcase for the 2022 Assembly elections. Here is a status check.
Though over a decade old, the Kushinagar International Airport has now become the pet project of not just the Uttar Pradesh Government but also the Centre with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri personally reviewing the project and announcing the start of operations by end of the year.
Always aimed at the Buddhist circuit potential, the airport’s newfound interest is however more to do with its political significance also. When operations start, this will become the fourth international airport in the state after Lucknow, Varanasi and the under construction airport at Jewar.
Situated near the Nepal border and close of Bihar, Kushinagar would be the only international airport project in 150 km radius — Gorakhpur airport, about 51 km away, at best caters to a small number of domestic flights. The other airports in the area at at Patna in Bihar, Kathmandu in Nepal and Varanasi in Eastern Uttar Pradesh. This means the airport can also cater to domestic passengers, including the thousands of migrant workers from the area who work in the rest of India and the Middle East. So now Lucknow and Delhi airports cater to this region.
This could also be a showcase project for the Bihar Assembly elections which are expected in a couple of months given the project’s possible impact on Siwan, Gopalkunj, Champaran and Saran districts.
Given cabinet clearance during Mayawati’s reign in 2010, the project was supposed to come up along with the now abandoned Maitreya Buddha statue project. Legend has it that Buddha attained “Mahaparinirvana” in Kushinagar and this brings in tourists from countries like Thailand, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Singapore as well.
11/09/20 Maulshree Seth/Indian Express
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