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Surat to have airport by mid-2002 Friday, December 14, 2001

* February, 2000: The then Union civil aviation minister Chaman Lal Gupta in his keynote address at 'Udyog 2000' promised of a full-fledged airport by 2000-end.

* April, 2000: Former chief minister Keshubhai Patel announced that an international firm, Globetrotters, was roped-in to chalk out plans for converting Magadalla airport into an international one.

* January 9, 2001: Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board (GIDB) is yet to get orders from the state government to fund an operations-cum-marketing viability survey. Authorities admitted of little correspondence in this regard.

* May 2001: State-run Indian Airlines asked for assurance on traffic volume from the proposed airport, and expressed its inability to operate at that moment. No efforts were taken to link the city with other air routes as it was considered economically unviable.

* May 2001: Authorities claimed that the construction of the airport's boundary wall, at a cost Rs 2.25 crore, would be complete by June-end, and the proposal to extend and expand the runway at a cost of Rs 11 crore, needed for Boeing and Airbus aircraft, was forwarded to the state government.

* June 10, 2001: Former chief minister Keshubhai Patel assured industry representatives at the SGCCI annual general meeting to expedite the process of developing the airport at Magadalla.

SURAT: Though connecting the silk-diamond city by air with other parts of the country seems to be an obsession with those in power, but plans have been moving at a snail's pace by going through the fact-file of progress in the last few years.

However, desperate measures to give a face-lift to the party in view of the next Assembly elections, there is renewed effort to connect the city by air so that the party could remain grounded firmly with its political base intact.

But, in the midst of firm assurances, for the proposed airport in the city of textile-cum-diamonds take-off seems to have grounded in the wake of many ifs and buts - ranging from passenger volume to length of airstrip at Magadalla airport for the last several years despite best of efforts, as claimed, at all levels.

However, with the allocation of Rs 1.5 crore for a well-equipped airport lobby and final drawings for various essential infrastructures approved last week by the Central ministry of civil aviation along with the proposed operations by the Jet Airways from here, things once again appear to have got accelerated.

Keeping this in mind, the city might have a full fledged operational airport by mid-2002, if latest endeavours on the part of the concerned ministry are any indication to go by.

But, the ball is now in the court of the state government as far as expediting the things falling under their jurisdiction are concerned, according to the Union minister of textiles and the city MP Kashiram Rana.

So far even sincere efforts to chalk out the best possible means in view of prevailing constraints have failed to get translated into reality, either because of lack of co-ordination or perhaps the need to connect the city by air failing to get prioritised at concerned levels, Rana told this correspondent from Delhi.

In view of the large base of diamond and textile industries here with several thousand crores of turnover, the city needs an airport without any delay, a fact which has been duly acknowledged by the Central government long back, Rana forwarded.

Even if the Indian Airlines has no planes with smaller seating capacities, there should be efforts to rope in other airlines, he said. In this regard, the Jet Airways recently purchased 60-seater four planes and has even approved in principle to operate from Surat, he stated.

The proposal of extending the flight from Delhi to Vadodara upto Surat is also under consideration, Rana said. The civil aviation ministry has approved provisions for air traffic control system and night landing facilities at the proposed airport in the city, Rana informed.

It is not that things could not be chalked out in the best possible manner to have a full-fledged airport in Surat, but it all depends on the state government to fulfil its part of obligations, at the earliest, Rana remarked.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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