Jewar airport may take off with Ajit Singh as aviation minister

Written by Deepa Jainani | Lucknow | Updated: Dec 21 2011, 07:48am hrs
With RLD chief Ajit Singh taking over as the new Union civil aviation minister, hope has been kindled for Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawatis long-cherished dream of having a greenfield Taj international airport and aviation hub (TIAH) at Jewar, near the national capital. The question whether a new airport should be allowed within 70 km of an existing airport, as it may hamper the business prospects of the existing one, has come in the way of the proposed airport in Greater Noida.

Proposed way back in 2001, the aviation hub was conceptualised to ease traffic at New Delhis Indira Gandhi International Airport. The project was also given a techno-feasibility clearance by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in 2003, during Mayawatis earlier stint as chief minister. However, innumerable efforts of the state government in the last four-and-a-half years to get the project off the ground have borne little fruit and according to senior officials, the only reason for the project not seeing the light of day is the Centres objection.

Despite the fact that traffic figures prove that a second airport near Delhi is indeed essential, the Centre has refused to give a go-ahead on it. But now that we have a new civil aviation minister, and that too from the region where this airport is to come up, we hope that he is able to convince the Centre on the need and importance of the airport for the people of his region, said an official, requesting anonymity.

The official cited an AAI study stating that by 2015-16, air traffic at the IGI Airport will hit the 108-million mark, which would lead to severe congestion. A second airport such as the TIAH is the only answer to this problem, he stated.

In fact, in order to address the issue of revenue collection, the UP government had in 2007 also given a written assurance to the Centre that it would abide by the contractual agreement entered into by the Government of Indias civil aviation department with the GMR Group, promoters of Delhi International Airport, in case any loss of revenue is reported. And ever since Mayawati came to power, she has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh several times on this issue, requesting him to clear the matter at the earliest.

The state has accusing the Centre of dilly-dallying on the R3,500-crore project. The only reason for the project to be put into cold storage is that the Centre does not want the BSP government to take the credit for development in the state. But now that RLD chief Ajit Singh has become a partner in the Congress-led UPA coalition, it remains to be seen how much he is able to work to the benefit of his constituency and the state, said another official who had been instrumental in getting the project cleared in 2003.