Srinagar aerodrome closing: CM
‘Exploring Awantipora Option’
Srinagar, Aug 28: Putting all speculations at rest, the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah Saturday made it clear that there won’t be any change with regard to closure of the Srinagar ‘International’ Airport on account of runway repairs from September 1 to 12.
“The Srinagar airport is closing. There won’t be any change in that,” Omar told Greater Kashmir, when asked about the status of the airport closure issue.
Omar, however, was quick to add, “We are working on the Awantipora option.”
The Chief Minister’s statement ran contrary to what he had told this newspaper few days back. “The Valley can’t remain cut off for 12 days. There are families who have to visit Kashmir from different parts of India and abroad to observe Eid with their families. So we have to think of them,” he had said, asserting that state was ‘exploring the alternate options’.
While the chief minister put the speculations about the possible postponement of the runway repair at rest,sources said the airlines have made it abundantly clear that they won’t operate from the Awantipora Air-Base—25 kms from Srinagar.
“Recently officials of all the private airlines met in Srinagar and decided that they won’t be operating from the Awantipora air-base as it lacked the basic facilities like the terminal building and the baggage checking system,” said station manager of a private airline. “There is no question of shifting to Awantipora. There is just an open field in Awantipora and nothing beyond that. At this moment, how is it possible to shift staff and paraphernalia of all the airlines from Srinagar to Awantipora? Where shall our staff stay there?”
It is understood that the state government had asked the Defence Ministry to reconsider the decision to close down the airport for 12 days at a stretch. However, the Ministry, according to sources, has categorically refused to budge and asked the Indian Air Force to go ahead with the runway repairs in time.
With airport closure just three days away, sources said, it was unlikely that the Awantipora option would be explored. “When the state couldn’t do anything with regard to Awantipora in the past one week, what shall it do now?” asked an airport official. “When Defence Ministry refused to budge, it means Awantipora too isn’t any option because that Air-base too is under the direct control of the Ministry. And then the airlines have refused to go there. This means people have to be ready to witness the flight blackout to the Valley.”
The state government has reportedly talked to the Civil Aviation Ministry regarding the refusal of airlines to operate from Awantipora. But the Ministry is yet to respond.
This time around, hundreds of people happen to visit Kashmir to observe Eid-ul-Fitr with their families. But the flight shutdown has dashed their plans. “Two days back, the chief minister Omar Abdullah assured that Valley can’t remain cut off for 12 days. Why is he silent over the issue now?” wrote Suhail in an e-mail to Greater Kashmir from Muscat. “I intended to visit Kashmir on September 8, but my travel agent said there is no flight from Delhi to Srinagar due to airport closure. I felt sad.”
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 29 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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