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Tale of two airports: did Modi govt unfairly pick UP's Jewar over Haryana's Meham?

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 5 July 2017, 19:37 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

Is the proposed international airport at Jewar in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, set to come up at the cost Meham in Rohtak, Haryana?

The Congress party certainly alleges so, saying the Narendra Modi government is playing favourites with UP, to the detriment of Haryana's development.

A second intl airport for NCR

The last 10 years saw the Mayawati's BSP regime in UP (2007-12) as well as the Bhupinder Singh Hooda regime in Haryana (2004-14) vying to bag the second proposed international airport in the National Capital Region (NCR), which is to come up at par with the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in New Delhi.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has now assumed power in both states as well as at the Centre, and has chosen in favour of Jewar, leading the Congress to cry foul.

According to a civil aviation expert, who did not wish to be named, the UP administration under Mayawati had come up with a 'very well made' presentation before the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation a few months after Mayawati had assumed office in 2007. The UPA-led Central government had, at that time, also a showed keen interest in the proposal.

But soon, Mayawati fell apart with the UPA over the issue of support for the Indo-US nuclear deal, voting against it in the Lok Sabha in July 2008. Sources say that this apparently took its toll on the Jewar airport proposal, and the whole issue was put on the backburner. Akhilesh Yadav's subsequent Samajwadi Party government did not give the issue the required push on account of political considerations.

It was around the same time as Mayawati that the Haryana government started toying with the idea of having an international airport at Meham. Today, when the proposal for Jewar has been approved, the Congress leadership from Haryana is alleging that this has been done at the cost of the Meham project, for which it had done considerable leg work and had got clearances and a feasibility study done. Nothing of this sort has been done in case of Jewar till now, it alleged.

Hooda's allegations

The matter was raised by Rohtak MP Deepender Singh Hooda in Chandigarh on Wednesday. The younger Hooda objected to the BJP government at the Centre taking away what was “rightfully Haryana's”, and handing it over to Uttar Pradesh. He also attacked the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana for not taking up the matter with the Narendra Modi-led Central government.

Promising to fight tooth and nail, Hooda accused the Modi government of not executing projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore meant for development of Haryana, which were cleared during the previous UPA regime led by his party. Of this, the Meham international airport project proposal alone was worth Rs 20,000 crore.

“On one hand, the Modi government talks of 'Ek Bharat'. I want to ask them whether only Uttar Pradesh is a part of that 'Ek Bharat' and not Haryana. We are not against new projects for Uttar Pradesh, but what is rightfully Haryana's should not be snatched away,” he said.

He said his father's Haryana government had, on 16 December 2009, sent a proposal to Manmohan Singh's Central government, pointing that just like all the major cities in the world, including London, New York, and Beijing, NCR too should have more than one international airport, and proposed one in south Haryana. Thereafter, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) had started inspecting various sites, till it zeroed in on Bhaini Bhairon and its adjoining villages in Meham, and came out with a pre-feasibility report.

“There was a condition in the Airport Infrastructure Policy Rules that said that a new airport could not come up within 150 km of an existing airport. While Jewar is 90 km from IGI Airport, the site in Haryana is 72 km. We got this condition relaxed, and it was stated that the the distribution of traffic between the IGI Airport and the proposed one was to be spelt out. This was followed by us getting a clearance from the Defence Ministry, because there were Indian Air Force (IAF) facilities in the vicinity at Sirsa as well as in Delhi. In case of Jewar also, there is a nearby IAF facility at Hindon. The office of the then Defence Minister, AK Antony, issued a no-objection certificate to the Civil Aviation ministry, which then constituted a feasibility group comprising secretaries from the ministry as well as AAI officials. This group came out with a report recommending development of the new airport on 5 January 2014,” he said.

Hooda further claimed that a study that was carried out by the Civil Aviation Ministry came up with the proposal to get the Meham airport commissioned for cargo handling during 2016-17, with passenger traffic to be handled seven years down the line.

He said that ever since the Modi government came to power, the Civil Aviation Ministry, despite his pleadings, did not place the proposal before the cabinet, and now the government has simply handed over the project to Uttar Pradesh.

Lambasting the Khattar government for its failure to take up the issue in interest of Haryana, Hooda said: “They have the audacity to say that they cannot find the file, and give a statement in the media that I am lying. How can they not have the documents when the correspondence during the previous state government was done by the state chief secretary?”

He has demanded that Khattar call an all party meeting and a delegation seek time from Modi and take up the issue with him. He further said that the three MPs from the Congress, the BJP and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), representing districts that could have benefited from the Meham airport, must raise the issue in Parliament too. This would include him as well. “I am ready to be led by anyone of them. We must introduce a resolution in Parliament on this issue,” Hooda added.

Advantage Jewar

The Centre gave its nod to the Jewar airport 10 days ago. The clearance was given by the Civil Aviation Ministry's steering committee.

The Central government has reportedly said that the new airport at Jewar will provide seamless domestic and international connectivity to western Uttar Pradesh with Noida, Agra, Mathura, Meerut, Vrindavan, Moradabad and Bulandshahr likely to serve as the catchment area. Being in close proximity to the international tourist hub of Agra is its biggest plus point.

It has also been pointed out that this airport will help boost the economic activity in the area.

Hooda, on the other hand, has said that an international airport at Meham at par with the IGIA could have been a milestone in the development of northern India, and would have ushered in immediate development in six districts of Jhajjar, Jind, Hisar, Rohtak, Sonepat and Charkhi Dadri. He said just as the IGIA had helped the development of the area right from south Delhi to Gurgaon and Jaipur, a similar pattern of development could have been repeated, with benefits extending right up to neighbouring Punjab and Rajasthan.

Political significance

It must be mentioned here that all the districts that were to benefit from the proposed Meham airport are a hotbed of Jat politics, where the Congress and the INLD have a strong base. This is an area that the BJP has failed to penetrate much.

Hooda has also accused the Modi government of handing over a proposed Rail Coach Factory at Sonepat to Uttar Pradesh, while also 'stalling' the work on the development of the Karnal and Hisar domestic airports.

First published: 5 July 2017, 19:37 IST
 
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