Nitish's plan to shift Patna airport faces opposition

Nitish's plan to shift Patna airport faces opposition

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s suggestion to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) that the airport in Patna should be shifted to Nalanda, his hometown, has evoked strong protest from all quarters.

“If Patna airport is shifted to Nalanda, which is nearly 100 km from the state capital, it would consume three hours in reaching the airport, which is not justifiable,” said Bihar Congress president Mehboob Ali Kaisar.  

The AAI, while maintaining that the Patna airport was unfit for the operation of bigger aircraft like Airbus 320 and Boeing 737, had identified 101 obstructions on either side of the runway which were dangerous for aircraft landing in the state capital. Giving a deadline of June 30, it had asked the Bihar government to remove the obstacles or face closure of the airport.

After the expiry of the deadline, the Patna airport (also know as Jaya Prakash Narayan International Airport) is operating without a valid licence from the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The DGCA, while granting licence to 45-odd domestic and international airports in India, has held back the decision to issue licence to Patna airport as it does not fulfil the requisite safety parameters.

Possible option

Recently, Nitish discussed the relocation of the airport with the AAI authorities and suggested Nalanda as one possible option. “The AAI has to take a final call on it following which the process of land acquisition and modalities of construction could be thrashed out,” said Nitish, while clarifying that Patna was as dear to him as Nalanda.

The AAI had earlier rejected the Nalanda proposal on the ground that the travel time to airport (2 to 3 hours) was more than flying hours (1 hour, Patna-Delhi). It had then suggested Bihta, barely 35 km from Patna, but the idea was turned down by Nitish. “It’s true that there was a proposal to shift Patna airport to Bihta, but it’s not feasible as the government has already acquired huge tracts of land there for educational institutions,” said Nitish.

Drawing flak

But Opposition parties have accused Nitish of promoting his home town at the cost of other districts. “Airports in most of the state capitals are 30 to 40 km away from the main city. Why not develop an airport at Maner, Fatuha, Dhanarua or Masaurhi, which are within the 20-km radius of the state capital,” Prem Chandra Mishra, former Bihar Congress chief spokesman told Deccan Herald here on Friday.

Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly, was even more scathing: “Why only airport? Nitish should shift the entire state capital to Nalanda.”

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