An international airport, near Mohali, being developed by two states, waits for a name

Written by Chitleen K Sethi | Chandigarh | Updated: Sep 6 2013, 20:24pm hrs
Airport MohaliNearly a dozen names have been proposed over the years but each has run into opposition from either Punjab or Haryana, if not both. Reuters
It is an international airport being developed by two states in partnership with the Centre, an extension of the existing domestic airport in their common capital, but its name hasnt yet been settled in the five years since they signed the agreement.

Nearly a dozen names have been proposed over the years but each has run into opposition from either Punjab or Haryana, if not both. The debate was rekindled recently after Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh proposed a name he hoped would be acceptable to both, but Punjab has since suggested an alternative that Haryana has instantly rejected.

The airport is under construction on 306 acres in Jheorehri village of Mohali, adjacent to Chandigarh city. The Chandigarh domestic airport will lend its runway space to the international airport. Punjab insists on including Mohali in the name and Haryana on keeping it out. Mohali is part of Punjab.

As far as Haryana is concerned there is no controversy over the name. Since it is a joint venture of Punjab and Haryana, only Chandigarh is acceptable, says S S Dhillon, principal secretary to the Haryana Chief Minister.

Haryana became only a stakeholder in the project. It merely paid for the acquisition of our land. That does not give it any right over what to name the project, counters Sukhbir Singh Badal, deputy chief minister of Punjab.

Planned initially as Mohali International Airport, the project was to be a joint venture between Punjab and the Ministry of Civil Aviation. However, on January 4, 2008, just before Punjab was to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Airports Authority of India, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda demanded that Haryana be included as a stakeholder. On the initiative of then civil aviation minister Praful Patel, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal concurred and last-minute changes were made to the MoU to include Haryana. But neither side had had the final word. Punjab kept insisting the name be changed eventually to Mohali International Airport, while Haryana has insisted it be called Chandigarh International Airport.

In March 2008, the Punjab assembly passed a resolution to name the airport Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport. Haryana agreed but wanted Chandigarh added while Punjab wanted to suffix it with Mohali.

The debate resumed after the union cabinet took up the name in June 2011. It discussed Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport Chandigarh as a possibility and sought the opinion of both states. Punjab replied it should be called Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport Mohali. In early 2012, Haryana wrote to the Centre with the suggestion Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport Chandigarh.

In May 2012, the Centre approved Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport but the suffix, if any, remained undecided. When Ajit Singh recently proposed Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport Mohali-Chandigarh, Punjab responded with Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport Chandigarh at Mohali.

Why should there be the word Mohali at all The airport just happens to be there, says a close aide to the Haryana CM. Hooda has been saying at various public forums that only Chandigarh is acceptable.

From Punjab, Sukhbir Badal insists, Mohali is where the project is located and that word will be in the name. And Gaganjit Brar, principal secretary to the Punjab chief minister, adds, How can something located physically in Mohali be called Chandigarh

ALL THE NAMES

* Mohali International Airport: The original plan, when it was meant to be a joint venture between the Centre and Punjab

* International Airport, Chandigarh: According to MoU signed in 2008 among the Centre and the two states

* Mohali International Airport: Punjabs demand after MoU

* Chandigarh International Airport: Haryanas demand then

* Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport: Punjab assembly resolution in 2008; Haryana agrees but suffix remains debated

* Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport Chandigarh: Centres proposal in June 2011

* Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport Mohali: Punjabs response

* Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport Chandigarh: Haryana to Centre, early 2012

* Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport: Central approval; suffix undecided

* Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport Mohali-Chandigarh: Proposal by aviation minister Ajit Singh

* Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport Chandigarh at Mohali: Punjabs latest, which has sent Haryana back on the warpath

The project

*306 acres in Jheorehri village of Mohali; an extension of the existing Chandigarh domestic airport

*24.5% share Punjab and Haryana each, rest AAI

*30% construction done, by L&T, contracted by Chandigarh Airport India Limited

*Foundation stone yet to be laid in the absence of a name