Air traffic suspension raises eyebrows
IAF doesn’t meet deadline; JK fails to ensure passenger, staff safety
Srinagar, Sept 14: For the first time in over a decade, the air traffic to and from Kashmir has been suspended till further orders, much to the annoyance of the passengers, who accuse the Jammu and Kashmir government of putting them to trouble.
While the passengers, whose booked tickets stand cancelled for next three days, have been left fuming, the decision has raised a question as to why the flights to and from Srinagar have been suspended all of a sudden.
So far the state government has failed issue a clarification in this regard. However, according to sources, the decision has been taken in the wake of police failure to ensure safety of passengers to and from Awantipora Air-Base—25 kms from here—from where the flights would operate since September 3.
Source said the state police and paramilitary forces have failed to clear the roads leading to Srinagar “International” Airport, where the passengers had to undergo security and baggage check. Besides, they said, the forces have not been able to ensure clear road to Awantipora in the wake of spontaneous pro-freedom protests at different places along the Srinagar-Awantipora highway, particularly near Parimpora and Lethpora areas.
The state’s failure has made it easy for the airlines and the Airports Authority of India to order suspension of the flights to and from Kashmir till 17th September.
According to observers, it after the 1999 Kargil War that flights operation to the Valley has been suspended.
“Yesterday our staff couldn’t make it to Awantipora following massive street protests. With the result the flights had to be cancelled,” said station manager of a commercial airline, insisting not to be named. “The staff was stranded in Srinagar airport till 10 PM and had to return to their residences amid tight security and street protests. So we can’t risk the lives of the staff and passengers. That is a major reason why the flights have been cancelled.”
The flights cancellation has irked hundreds of people, who had to already face immense hardship before boarding the flights. “There seems to be a war-like situation. The state has miserably failed to clear the road leading to Awantipora and Srinagar International Airport,” said Uman Haroon, a passenger whose ticket for September 15 was cancelled. “I had to attend an important meeting in Delhi for which I had done the advance booking. It is unfortunate that air traffic has been suspended notwithstanding hardships that people will have to face.”
Informed sources said there was more to the flights suspension than meets the eye. The Indian Air Force, they said, was supposed to make the Srinagar International Airport operational for air traffic from September 15 following completion of runway repairs work. But it has allegedly refused to do so citing incomplete work.
The airport had closed on September 3 on account of runway re-carpeting till September 15.
“This time the turmoil came handy for the IAF. They have extended the runway repair work by some more days, notwithstanding public inconvenience,” they said.
Pertinently the Srinagar airport is under the direct control of the IAF while all other airports across the country are manned by the AAI.
When contacted, the director AAI didn’t respond to repeated calls from Greater Kashmir.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 Sep 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 Sep 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 15 Sep 2010 00:00:00 IST
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