Bureaucratic sloth blocks Kargil airport expansion

Bureaucratic sloth blocks Kargil airport expansion

Lackadaisical attitude of the Civil Aviation Ministry officials have led to an inordinate delay in extension of the 6,000 feet runway at the Kargil airport, proposed to facilitate operation of commercial aircraft.

The proposed expansion of the airstrip by 1,500 feet has been hanging fire since 2010. A special committee appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on development of Ladakh had recommended that the Kargil airport be upgraded in two years. The airport is under the jurisdiction of the Defence Ministry, given its strategic importance.

The nonchalance of the Aviation Ministry officials even forced P Chidambaram to write to Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, before assuming charge as the finance minister. In his letter to Singh on May 29, Chidambaram requested him to direct the officials to write to the Defence Ministry and formally ask for extension of the airstrip to start civil operations.

Even Defence Minister A K Antony had given a go ahead to the extension in writing to Chidambaram. The cost of extension of the drains and construction of a 500 feet unpaved “over run area” was estimated at Rs 28 crore. However, Antony regretted that despite his initiatives, the Defence Ministry did not receive any formal communication from the aviation ministry.

Based on the defence ministry’s approval to the extension, Chidambaram, in his letter to Singh, stated that “it appears, therefore, that the matter is not being addressed because certain procedural formalities have not been complied with.”

He also mentioned that Lalit Gupta, DDG, Airport Authority of India (AAI), had also recommended extension of the runway after a detailed study. “The report was lying with the aviation ministry.”

AAI spokesperson G S Bawa told Deccan Herald that extension of the Kargil runway has to be undertaken by the Defence Ministry.

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