Saturday, June 04, 2022

Assam cleared tea estate for ‘imaginary’ airport

The Assam government had used a fleet of bulldozers and excavators to clear swathes of a tea estate for an “imaginary” airport, information provided by the Civil Aviation Ministry has revealed.

In a May 31 reply to an application under the Right to Information Act, the Ministry said it had not received any proposal for the construction of a greenfield airport at the Doloo Tea Estate near Silchar in southern Assam’s Cachar district.

By then, the authorities had uprooted some 30 lakh tea bushes for a civilian airport in order not to depend on the existing Kumbhirgram airport under operational control of the Indian Air Force.

Amit Kumar Jha, the Ministry’s Chief Public Information Officer said the government had formulated a Greenfield Airports Policy in 2008 that provides guidelines, procedure and conditions for the establishment of new greenfield airports in the country.

“As per policy, an airport developer, including the State government, willing to establish an airport is required to send a proposal to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, in the prescribed format for a two-stage process, i.e., site clearance followed by in principle approval,” Mr. Jha said in his reply to the RTI query.

He also said the Ministry approved the setting up of 21 greenfield airports across India but did not receive any proposal for one near Silchar.

The Assam Cabinet had on May 29 decided that 1,263 families of tea workers at the Doloo Tea Estate would be provided with ₹1 lakh each “as a goodwill gesture for their cooperation in the development of the greenfield airport at Silchar”.

This has ticked off the tea plantation workers, considered a vote bank that the BJP weaned away from Congress. The Doloo Tea Estate Save Coordination Committee called for a protest rally on June 15 against the “conspiracy to affect the livelihood of hundreds of tea garden workers”.

04/06/22 The Hindu

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