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 hasn’t 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.