Saturday, July 28, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

CISF to handle airport security
Thrust on anti-hijack steps at Rajasansi
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Rajasansi (Amritsar), July 27
Laying the foundation stone for upgradation and expansion of the Amritsar International Airport here today, Minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism Sharad Yadav said apart from deployment of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the government would take all anti-hijacking measures.

Admitting the failure of security agencies during the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight-814 from Nepal to Kandahar via Amritsar in December, 1999, Mr Yadav said the government would ensure foolproof security of passengers and aircraft, especially in sensitive airports like Amritsar. Security personnel of the CISF, would be imparted special training for this purpose so that their performance remained passenger-friendly while maintaining high standards of security.

To a question on deployment of anti-hijacking squads, including the elite National Security Guards, at most vulnerable airports, the minister said his ministry was working in close coordination with the Union Home Ministry. He said instructions for the handing of security of airports to the CISF had been issued to the authorities concerned. The CISF would take over from the security agencies in less than two months.

The minister said the Civil Aviation Minister had signed a Rs 500-crore agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for modernisation of air traffic management at international airports, installation of a radar network for monitoring and management of air traffic in Indian airspace by using satellite communication for better navigation and the use of satellite-base automatic dependence surveillance (ADS) at Kolkata and Chennai.

Some major projects had been implemented and others were in the pipeline. Mr Yadav said the government would spend Rs 112.60 crore for the development of civil aviation facilities in Punjab. He said Rs 80 crore had already been released for upgradation of the Rajasansi airport. As per the project, the current runway was being extended to 10800ft, the apron was being extended for the operation of wide-bodied aircraft with the provision of aerobridge facilities. A new link taxiway was also being constructed for better aircraft movement on the apron.

Besides, new integrated terminal buildings for operation of both domestic and international flights was being added. The Rajasansi airport would also be equipped with the instrument landing system for all-weather navigation. A fire station was being added. For increased cargo traffic from the airport, the Civil Aviation was adding 10,000 sq ft area. The entire expansion plan would be completed by the year 2003 and would be able to handle 500 passengers during peak hours.

Mr Yadav said the government was committed to privatisation of new airports and had recently cleared four joint ventures, besides handing over management of airports to the private sector.

In complete departure from the involvement of government in all airport projects, the minister announced that the Centre had decided to offer 100 per cent equity to non-resident Indians to build airports in the country. The government would give land for such projects on long lease. He suggested that since a large number of NRIs were settled abroad, they should be approached to set up such projects on a built-and-transfer basis.

In yet another significant statement, Mr Yadav said the disinvestment process of Air-India had already been put into place. There were only two contenders — Hindujas and Tatas. The government wished to dispel the fear of Hinduja brothers that they would not be given due opportunity to present their case. He said the Cabinet Committee on Security had discussed the issue of the Hindujas. The government was concerned about the security of the nation and the Hinduja brothers had to come clear. The government was going ahead with an agreement on share-holding in Air-India and the process would be completed soon.

In the meanwhile, the government had appointed two financial advisers for the evaluation of Air-India and would make efforts to clinch the decision in the next couple of months. Similarly, the process of disinvestment of Indian Airlines would be undertaken. The government was evaluating bids for the same.

The Minister for Civil Aviation said the Indian Airlines fleet would soon be augmented with the induction of 12 aircraft, including six airbuses and another six turbo for small routes. The minister said the ministry was planning to connect the holy city with major cities of the country and also contemplating six flights a week to Delhi, besides restarting a daily flight to Srinagar.

The minister said a plan to operate flights from Ludhiana had been approved. The upgradation of Chandigarh as an international airport in the next phase was being considered. The Civil Aviation had already spent 2.37 crore on the development of various airports in Punjab.

Mr Yadav said the NDA government had to its credit six additional international airports in a short span. Four airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai had been identified for the purpose of leasing to private parties. The terms of such lease were being worked out.

The city had a tremendous potential in religious tourism, trade and commerce. With the expansion of the airport, the region would be greatly benefited as cargo in the shape of agricultural products and other items would find access to neighbouring areas. Lamenting that India had failed to attract tourists as the country got only .5 per cent of international tourists, he emphasised the need to develop the country into a major tourist destination which could result in large foreign exchange. He said India was one of the most beautiful countries in the world but lack of focus, good tourist marketing and infrastructure had led to poor tourist traffic to India. Although, the minister said, there had been an 8 per cent growth in tourism last year, more had to be done to attract people from the all over the world.

Airports being the nuclei of economic activity assumed a significant role in national economy, he said the quality of airport infrastructure was a vital component for overall improvement in the transportation network. The airports contributed directly to country’s international image and helped in bringing foreign investment.

Addressing a press conference, the minister regretted the security lapse that led to the killing of Samata Party MP Phoolan Devi. On the denial of security to the slain MP, Mr Yadav said it was not possible to provide security to all members of Parliament. The people of the country were concerned over criminalisation of politics. Mr Yadav felt that strong public opinion needed to be created so that the politician-criminal nexus could be broken.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, complimenting the Central Government for the expansion of the airport, said the Punjab Government had sanctioned Rs 13 crore for the four-laning of the road linking the city with the airport. This project was likely to be completed within the next three months.

Mr Badal said with the commissioning of cargo facilities, farmers of the state would be able to export fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers. Mr Badal said state government had distributed Rs 100 crore among farmers for distress sale of paddy during the last season. The government had given Rs 8 crore to border farmers as compensation. The Upper Bari Doab Canal Project with an outlay of Rs 180 crore was likely to be completed which would provide irrigation facilities to the border region.

The Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, said his department was considering fertiliser subsidy to farmers to improve their economic lot.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Chaman Lal Gupta said the ministry would provide all maximum help for the expansion and upgradation of facilities at airports, including those at Jammu and Kashmir, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh and Pathankot. He said Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab had tremendous tourist potential. For this reason the Airport Authority of India had undertaken a project for establishing a civil enclave at the Pathankot defence airport.

Earlier, “bhoomi pujan” for the expansion and upgradation of the airport was held amidst chanting of mantras and ardas. Among others who attended the function were Mr R.L. Bhatia, MP, Minister for Civil Aviation Raja Narinder Singh, Minister for Animal Husbandry Rattan Singh, Minister for Health Baldev Raj Chawla, Minister of State for Agriculture Gulzar Singh Ranike, MLA Vir Singh Lopoke and the Chairman, Airport Authority of India, Mr D.V. Gupta.


Shrine at airport a security concern
Our Correspondent

Rajasansi (Amritsar), July 27
Even as efforts are made to upgrade Rajasansi airport to an international level, concern over a religious shrine in the precincts of the airport continue as it violates global security norms.

Earlier, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) proposed to be deployed in place of the Punjab had expressed apprehensions and surprise over the 4-acre shrine which had been allowed to exist close to the runway. Government agencies are baffled over finding a suitable solution wherein security may not be reached or affected while keeping intact the religious sentiments attached to the shrine.

A section of airport officials and a large number of devotees have faith in the shrine that was set up some 50 years ago when the airport was under the control of the Indian Air Force. The “abiding belief”, it is learnt, emanates from the fact that the shrine as well as the airport remained undamaged during the massive air strikes in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan, even though it was the ‘nearest’ and ‘softest’ target for enemy sorties.


Ardas with shoes on?
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 27
The ardas and ‘bhumi pujan’ performed at the Rajasansi airport before the laying of a foundation stone for upgradation of the airport has raised eyebrows.

The participants, including ministers and the Chief Minister, were wearing shoes when the ‘ardas’ was performed by a granthi. Many Sikh leaders have also taken objection to Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, who is also President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, participating in the ‘bhumi pujan’ ceremony.Back

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